Monday, April 21, 2014

A Stroke of Faith

My sister called my cell last Friday morning while I was sitting in Berkeley Springs at a baseball game.  "Mommy collapsed.  I am taking her to the hospital."

Our mother is 88.  She had just come out of a pretty difficult water aerobics class--yes, you read that right--and grabbed some groceries at Food Lion.  Upon reaching my sister's vehicle, she went straight down.  First miracle:  Straight down.  Not forward on her face, nor backward on her head.  She didn't break or bruise a thing.  A couple men were standing by and rushed to my mother's aid.  Another man stopped his car and helped them get her up and into my sister's car.  She was weak and listless.  My sister tore back to my mother's house and grabbed her medicine, the things she takes daily, because she knew she would be asked.  She put our mother's cold stuff in the fridge.  People have questioned that.  I would have done the same thing.  It's the parent-child relationship.  I don't know exactly what's wrong but Mommy will want her food put away.  There was a sweetness to the action, and not a foolishness.  Because even though we're grown women who have raised (and are raising) our own children, we are still daughters, and within that relationship we still retain some of the thoughts and feelings of little girls toward their mommies.  So, the cold stuff got put away.

As they flew to the hospital, my sister did all the stroke tricks and our mother did not pass.  Along the way, my sister asked a zillion questions, even one particular question that, considering the circumstances, was necessary--but it certainly took a lot of courage to ask:  "Mom, do you want to be cremated like Daddy?" Second Miracle:  They didn't wreck or get pulled over.  One of the sweetest songs ringing in my heart right now is that while my mother was continuing in her stroke, God ministered to her in a precious way.  He tells us in John 14:26 that He will recall His Word to our remembrance.  She recited Psalm 23 in the midst of her situation.  And He caused her to be able to.  I was wondering about calling that fact the Third Miracle, but her ability to recite scripture in the midst of her uncertainty was not a miracle, rather a promise.  I have a mother whose every breath is a thankful one, whose every hope is in the Lord Jesus.

By the time they made it to the hospital, my mother's left arm was retracted and her mouth drooped on one side.  The amazing folks in the ER whisked her into the back, evaluated her and sped her off for a CAT Scan.  (BTW--thanks for that!  You saved our sweet Mama's life!)  By the time I reached the consultation room, the Scan was in progress and we were about to meet the neurologist.  His team finished the Scan and he confirmed our fears.  Until that point, I nearly had myself convinced she had forgotten to take her blood pressure meds, that this wasn't actually a stroke, that she simply needed to get back on track with her pills.  The neurologist was kind and encouraging.  She had been given a clot-busting drug and was responding well.  As Mommy was transferred to ICU, we updated our sibs, spouses, kids and other family members.

Miracle Three:  I remained strong and without tears.  The next day a whole bunch of us gathered in the ICU waiting room and wore out the double doors into the unit--two at a time.  The strangest thing occurred.  Our mother remembered every second of the previous day.  She recalled her water aerobics class, her grocery trip, the exact sensation as she collapsed (complete weakness), the men picking her up and placing her into the passenger seat of my sister's car, the ride to the hospital.  She seemed great.

And then, the next day she seemed less great, and today less so.  She is fragile, yet still, even within the weakness of her body, she is encouraging and sweet, and funny.  The nurse asked her today if she knew where she was.  When she said she did know, her nurse continued:  "Where are you?"  ISRAEL.  Israel?  My heart dropped.  And then I saw my sly Mommy wink at my youngest daughter.

I don't know what our tomorrow will bring, but there is One who does, and it's on Him that I have to cast this one.  That became crystal clear tonight when I sobbed my eyeballs out because I feel so terribly lost when I think of, perhaps, losing my mother.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Praise the Lord and Pass the Potatoes: I'm Back!

And so it's April of 2014.  The last time I even visited Momma to Momma was nine months ago.  My excuse?  I can only say that some things take awhile to come back.

I had a friend once, a Cub Scout mom and a huge crafter.  My friend lost her baby boy.  She never returned to Scouting or crafting.  In the first months after my dear one's accident, life regained its busy pace--everybody went to a camp or two; I studied Appalachian culture at a local university; we got the dogs and a cat fixed; the bills rolled in and money flew out; we bought groceries; we planned a wedding; we deposited our girl in college; we fought off the wolves howling at the door; we sat around campfire after campfire and grinned at each other because we still had the right amount of kids.  God had graciously allowed us to keep our daughter.  Anyone peeping in would think our lives were exactly the same as they had been before her accident, that while we had nearly unraveled last May, we were all wound into a perfectly together ball of family again.  We even thought so.

Sometime last Fall, it hit me that I had not written a poem in a long time.  I had not flipped on the karaoke that's always set up in the kitchen.  I had not slept a whole night through.  I had not attempted even one tiny piece of art.  I had not watched a movie without nodding off.  I had not finished a novel, jumped on the trampoline, napped, surprised my husband, or journaled anything (not my Bible studying, my feelings nor my project ideas).  I was distracted by what ifs.  Hyper-vigilance set in.  I needed to know where every one of the children was at all times.  I asked them to call me when they went someplace, answer the phone if I rang it, and call me the second they got where they were going.  I stayed awake nights until I could place each child on the proper shelf.  I tried to reason the law of averages but to no avail.  Sometimes tragedies are visited upon the same people multiple times.  That law does not really apply to situations involving horrible, life-altering events.  If I thought about our daughter's accident, my brain followed an ever-deepening groove back to the moment my cell rang and all I could hear was her friend screaming on the other end of the line.

It has taken months of baby steps to allow my adult children to live their own lives without reporting to me constantly.  I still need to hear their beautiful voices every day or two.  Each time I push through a potentially dangerous time without calling or cautioning, I move a wee bit closer to being better than I was before.  Some might say I should seek counseling.  I am seeking God.  Mighty Counselor.  And it's working, because here I am.

In the past couple months I have written two poems, slept through the night, made several tiny pieces of art, watched a movie without nodding off, finished a novel, napped and journaled.  I have also started a graduate program in Geography.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go flip on the karaoke--gonna spend my evening as Janis, Patsy, and so many of my musical heroes in between.  Busted flat in Baton Rouge...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Big God/Little Me

Around 2:30 on May 15 I texted my daughter, and texted her.  She is 18 and we always connect in the afternoon to see what the rest of the day's plans will look like.  And texted.  Alone in my elementary classroom, I worried, but not desperately.  Sometimes service is sketchy at the high school.  A few minutes later, the approaching whine of an emergency vehicle, and I knew.  I don't know how I knew, but I knew in a way that only a mother can, that something bad had just crashed into my life.  Against all logic, I began to pray for my daughter.  It was the first day she had driven to school, and my head kept telling me she was in Mr. M.'s class, certainly not out driving around.  My heart screamed something completely different at me.

When my cell phone rang a minute later, I understood that my heart had informed me accurately.  My daughter had been in a very bad accident, but she was talking.  That helped.  The story that began to play out in our lives at that point is filled with grit and strength on my daughter's part; she has become my hero.  But even bigger, is the story of lavish miracles and boundless grace--events that could never be coincidence.  God is so crazy big.  Every time I consider His provisions, His answers to prayer, I am nearly brought to my knees.  My dearest love is healing.  She is being restored moment by moment, by the hand of the Great Physician.

As a mother, I have come under much fire for being overprotective, strict.  It's been a hard label, as I have always wanted to be fun.  I believe my fears were planted in my heart at an early age by my own family.  I was the baby sister; my sisters were 11 and 14 when I was born.  My sense of the world was defined early on by my mother's mantra:  "Be careful!  Watch the baby!  Don't let anything happen to the baby!"  When I became a mother at 27, I was initially fun and hip--right up until a young boy from our community was snatched and never returned.  Every repressed worry surfaced and began to define my parenting.  (If my kids didn't have a daredevil for a father they would have been sunk.).  An inner vow took hold and chained me to caution:  "Be careful!  Watch the baby!  Don't let anything happen to the baby!"  Over time, I began to believe that my vigilance kept my children safe.

Not so.  I had no idea my daughter was not in school at 2:30 on May 15.  I thought she was tucked safely into Mr. M.'s class retaking a final.  And if I had known, I could not have kept her safe.  It is not within my power, nor my control, to hold back the crushing force of a vehicle collapsing in on itself.  It is not within my power to place a barrier between a soft, warm body and three solid, rigid trees.  I could not have kept anything from happening to the baby.  I wasn't there.

But Someone so much more able was there, and continues to be.  He is healing the child, and freeing the mother.  Hallelujah.   

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sweet Sweet Journey

Last weekend, several of us had a good chuckle over our 20-year-old's tub of stuff.  This is the stuff I collected over the years and stuffed into a tub with his name on the lid.

Here's the question:  Was I collecting for him, or for me?  Because I really believe that Me Then knew somehow that Me Now would desperately need to experience my very little boy again.  There was something so dreamy and so baby-powder sweet about going through this tub with my big, grown puppy.  As we drew sock after block after rattle after blanket (ginky) from the place it had been so tenderly laid many years ago, my heart hummed with a happiness only these sorts of sweet memories can call forth.  He was brand new, and four, and seven, and twelve--all at the same time.

Briefly, I believe it was the same for him.  He has only ever experienced himself in a linear way, in chronological fashion, where one event leads to another as the first vanishes behind.  Like a car trip that seems to go on forever, but doesn't really.  I believe my grown boy sensed, during our sweet journey, what I have been trying to tell him for years.  I have told him again and again, "While you experience your own life in a line, to me your life is on a canvas stretched out in front of me.  Everything is happening at once for me, yet the same events for you are coming along one at a time."

I wonder if this is why emotions run so high when things go on with our children.  When he hurts, I still want to comfort the little boy.  When he soars, I want to run along the beach holding his hand, chasing seagulls.  When he skins his knee, I want to kiss it better.  When a policeman pulls him over for doing 50 in a 35, I want to give that cop a piece of my mind.

It's good for me, I think, to keep tubs of stuff, and to go through them once in awhile. It keeps my perspective where it belongs, and helps me resist every urge to call the time my grown boy spends with his friends a play date.  It helps me allow all of them to grow and stretch and leave.

I can't decide if I'm pathetic, or if all mom's are like this...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Show Me Your Friends

Any one of my kids, and any of the kids in our youth group at church, are able to complete this sentence when my husband says the first part:  "Show me your friends--".

"and I'll show you your future."

Sounds like a blanket assessment, doesn't it?  All of the young people in our lives, both past and present, have tried every which way from sideways to prove that statement false.  Here's the problem:  they can't.  If you hang around with people long enough to call them FRIENDS, their behavior becomes the norm for the group and for the individual within the group.

My wise husband offered these examples:  if all the people in your group of friends uses four-letter words, using four-letter words becomes the norm.  No one thinks anything of it because everybody does it.  If all the people in your group of friends inject heroin into their veins, shooting up drugs becomes the norm.  Likewise, if all of your friends commit to purity, it is the norm to stay pure.  And if the norm in your group of friends is to abstain from alcohol,  you will probably not all get together and tie one on.

There are certainly good reasons for parents to keep a watchful eye on their kids' friends.  Most parents are not passing judgment on the families of the children their kids are drawn into relationship with.  It is simply wise to know where your dearest loves are going, who they will be spending time with, the conditions at the home where they will be sleeping over, and the adults who will be supervising them.

Believing this way does not make me one bit popular with my kids or their friends, and sometimes I question our need to know important answers before our kids leave for a friend's house, but our caution has not cost our children.  And we know several sets of parents whose lack of it has cost their children dearly.      

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

All You Need Is...

It seems fitting to write on L-O-V-E this week. For a couple of reasons.

First, the obvious consideration for writing about LOVE is because we are right in the middle of February, and so is something else:  VALENTINE'S DAY!  Hearts are everywhere in all of their beautiful pink and red and white glory.  I would ask anyone reading this to cast off the glittery trappings of an over-commercialized date in the middle of this month, and instead, just LOVE.  Walk around for the next few days treating the people in your world as if you love them.

This brings me to the second reason I am writing about LOVE this week.  Our pastor bestowed on us a challenge last Sunday morning:  choose one person in your sphere of influence (circle of friends and acquaintances), and for the next year, simply LOVE that person.  To be devoted to loving a person means to be devoted to selflessness and purity in that relationship, no matter what.  As we consider the people who have traipsed into our lives, who have been born into, or married into, or were thrust into our lives, we are challenged to do this thing that is actually pretty foreign to our thinking.  (What a terrible thing to say! I am outraged at myself for suggesting that LOVE is foreign to my thinking.)

I love my husband and my children (and perfect grandboys!).  I love my mother and my siblings and their families.  I love my friends and I love people, in general.  I wonder--do I love any of them selflessly, or in purity?  I mean to.  But in thinking about what it means to truly, truly love a person, I wonder if I don't attach a few strings (even teeny, tiny, wee strings) to the people I believe I love.  For me, to love someone is to allow him (or her) to be, to be exactly who God designed him to be; to not manipulate or influence him in any way that would benefit me; to discipline with my eye and my heart trained on godly wisdom; to give selflessly, to hold tirelessly, to listen endlessly, to defend boldly, to pray for radically, to honor constantly.

What a tall order!  Does anyone really love like that?  I believe my pastor's challenge, which seemed sweet and fluffy to me at first, is perhaps the hardest thing I have ever considered doing.  But in the immortal words of one of our dearest superheroes, Yoda:  "Do or do not.  There is no try."  So, in closing, and with much, much more to say but not nearly enough time and space to say it:   Today, I will LOVE.  (There is no try.)        

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

When the Party's Over

First, let me say that our holiday season was a bumpy one.

Whoever said that parents are busier and their hearts--and wallets--are stretched more when there's a slew of ankle biters running around the house lied.  And should be spanked.  Either that or said person didn't stick around until the kids became adults and almost-adults.

I know alotta things.  I know what to do with a fever, a sore throat, a twisted ankle, an earache, a mean teacher, a fresh mouth, and sibling rivalry. I can serve up the Brat Diet, Nature's Penicillin, Magic Mouthwash and the best whipped cream icing ever.  I am resourceful beyond words, can stretch a buck as if it was rubber, and can make a gourmet souffle out of cardboard.

But, for the life of me, I do not understand the college student.

The big boys finished up their semester finals in mid-December and graced us with their precious presence for the entire holiday season.  I was able to spend hours talking at them while they texted and stopped up their ears with something called ear buds.  I learned that I am stupid and that they are smart because they attend college.  At first, they spoke to me gently, as if I was a small child who did not understand.  By Christmas, they had become a little testy in their constant reminders.  By New Year's Eve, one of them had bugged out in favor of laying up at a friend's house, and the other was barely speaking to me.

May I just say here that my heart hurt more than I imagined it could have?  I used my best reasoning skills and purposed with everything I had in me not to incite them to wrath.  But they were still wrathful.

And the girls, my beautiful teen princesses, who play sports at opposite ends of the county, informed me that if their coaches called practices, I would certainly be driving them to these practices.  I stammered:  "But what about Christmas?  What about family time?  What about caroling, and tree lighting and visits with family?  What about those things, huh?" Again, even the kids who still live under our roof, spoke to me as if I just didn't get it--slowly, and with small words.

And maybe I don't get it.  I have always despised injustice, yet have come to reside under its cruel authority.  I imagine a fantasy family in which the children come home from high school and college without their own agendas, with no more trouble attached to them than a sackful of laundry sporting stubborn stains.  They tell me I just need to go with the flow.  What?  Turn a blind eye to bad manners and a deaf ear to potty mouth?  Turn a clogged nose to the showerless and smoke-filled?  Not a chance, I say!  Oh, where are the diapers  and drool cloths, the playpens and playgrounds?  Where have my ankle biters gone?