from an article originally posted October 16, 2014…
Last night I served my community group grilled cheese and tomato soup. But the feast was the heart sharing, the safe place, the time together. Time spent being a safe place for each other. Sharing the strength and weakness of our lives. We spoke in simple terms. Asked simple heart questions, and laughed and pondered how might we love one another better.
I made caramel apples for the kids, and all through the house we giggled over complete apples left bare of their yummy caramel coating nibbled off cleanly. The kids created a game in the darkness and played with familiar friends. Our shared living is becoming routine, safe, familiar for us all. Familiar enough that I could share tomato soup and grilled cheese without any fear of rejection. The meal isn’t the point. It never has been.
My baby girl just came into my bed. She is in a season of refusing pajamas. She begins in them, but often I find her only in her unders. And with the chill coming, she often has thrown off the blankets and finds herself cold. I think it’s a conspiracy of wanting to wake in the night to come find her warm mama. I don’t mind. I secretly think she’s agreed to a quiet conspiracy to try and capture as many kisses and snuggles from me as her big sisters and brother before I fly away. It’s a love conspiracy we have both silently agreed to together. She sneaks beside my bed, chilled, and tangles herself up with me. I lend my warmth to her shiver, and she drifts back to sleep. But not before she’s smothered in my kisses and prayers.
But here I am awake. Her chill woke me and reminded me of today. Awake with only hours before I enter big chemo again. Just moments until I fade into a haze of chemo, drugs, bad tastes, and quiet. A robust talker quieted by chemicals. Last night my spine was hurting, Jason tried to gently help. I looked at him and said, How did we get here? He slumped his shoulders and said, I don’t know.
So I kiss and kiss the little love beside me in hopes that the love will last. And I open my computer to share the heartbreak of it all and the beauty of this moment. Knowing one day Story Jane will know she was a daughter captured and cherished. Just like my three bigs.
My son created a most wonderful Lego project yesterday. Intricate and amazing. I asked him if he needed more Legos; he said, I have enough, Mama. What? Humble accepting of what he has instead of what he has not. It quieted me. I couldn’t enjoy that answer as I was feeling my own keen need for wanting more. I turned back to Lake.
Well, certainly you could use some more tires since the dog likes to eat yours, right?
Well, Mama, I suppose a few new tires would be great.
I pressed my discontent onto my son. I’m grasping to make it right somehow, in corners I cannot make right. I’m living this beautifully constructed Lego life full of love, and I’m searching for the answer that will make it all better. But tires won’t be enough for me.
Yesterday, in chapel my friend Jim Ross talked to the kids about Liberia. He loves Liberia and struggled when he could not return because of the Ebola outbreak. He came to share Jesus and compassion for a hurting people with the students. He started to touch on Ebola, and my little love raised her hand. I can picture kind Jim calling on her sweet raised hand. Jim, Ebola is like my mommy’s cancer; people die of it. Jim braved forward with his talk, but many teachers were left in a puddle.
That afternoon, I was walking from the playground to the bathroom with Lake and Story. I asked Story to recount the event with me. She told me what she said, and Lake interjected: Ya, but Mama, you are going to get old and die of that, right?
I looked at him soberly and said, Lake, I doubt it, I will probably die of cancer. He was quiet, and looked at my face. It wasn’t sadness so much that I saw, but, in that moment, he became a little bit older. Older than I would like him to be. We walked in silence for a short bit and like I talked to Harper in the book, I talked to my two littlest. I asked them, through choking down my weeping, Will Jesus meet you in His goodness even if I fly away to heaven? Like their big sister Harper, they both said he would. Will that feel often impossible? Yes, but is it true—absolutely.
So, in three hours, I wake to one last interview before chemo. I will breakfast carefully with a few girlfriends. I will choose the food I don’t love in case it’s lost in treatment, making me never again to want it. Then I will meet Pastor Carl. He will pray and Shellie will sit by me as I tell her she’s wearing ugly shoes. It’s the truth serum’s fault. She will sit there and mostly watch me sleep. My guy will be quieted by the needle sticking out of my heart. He will need a break for a coffee, and Shellie understands and remains. He has to come home to so much gravity, that the weight of the room becomes a heavy reminder of the coming awful days of recovery.
But we show up, we limp along, we look for the goodness in the tangled-up legs. We breathe each moment, even the awful ones, because we know they are momentary. We swallow the pills to manage the side effects. Because, when I lift from the fog in a few days, there are Lego wheels to be purchased. There are kitchen counters to wipe, there are books to be read and snuggles to be had. And I certainly hope a brisk chill comes that will give me time to be quieted beside a fire.
There are bad days—today will be one of them, but it won’t be without important and good moments. This breath, it matters. So does yours. How are you living the breath you have today well? How are you extending love beyond your comfortable borders? Brave something, not big, not extraordinary, but something good today. Something that lets your beautiful story into the story of another. Do it; your story, in all its brokenness, is beautiful. You have something important to share today. What is it? I can’t wait to hear. Listen to the Holy Spirit and wonder how He would have you love today—BIG giant Jesus love to another, and sometimes it’s something simple. A coffee, a kindness, a hand held. In my case, a foot rub when the nausea is overwhelming. That’s big, fat, beautiful grace love. Tell me—what big and little ways are you called to love today?
Meet me in looking for something tender and beautiful in today? Tell us about it. Did you brave the mountain of laundry? Did you avoid the laundry for a trip to the park? Did ice cream drip down your arm before you could capture it with your tongue? Did a child move towards you in love? Did you drive and play the music loud and joined the chorus in awful, joyful singing? How did love meet you today? How did you extend big love—the overflowing-from-Jesus kind? Not the Kara-said-to-do-it kind. I’ll be in chemo—I would delight to hear your loves big and small. Jason says I can’t reply—the meds they give me… well... You heard… I straight up told Shellie her shoes were ugly. Though in my memory of it, I just thought they looked uncomfortable. But I take their word for it, I remember so little. Yet they love me anyway, mean shoe hatred and all. I don’t deserve such kindness.