Kara’s Collection: Love Intentional, Love Maturing, Love Exceptional

from an article originally posted December 22, 2014

Forgive me for being so absent recently. I have been in the hospital longer than I can remember. So many have given so much to protect, enjoy, and embrace my family. I have this one story about Eleanor, full of Grace, I want to share before I let myself sleep again and the story fades with all the medications I’m taking to get through each painful moment well. It is a story I will never forget, but I want it to be documented here to let her know how stunning the love in her life is to so many—especially this mama of hers.

After my last chemo and radiation on my hip, food would not stay down, my pain would not ease. An MRI showed that cancer had spread in my pelvic area, exposing a pain that could not be helped with conventional medicines; I was in rough shape. We tried very hard to deal with the side effects at home, but we were failing miserably. Failing. To say I was discouraged would be an understatement. We complied and entered new treatment to battle my cancer. Now we are awaiting surgery to help us manage pain.

My kids were invited to spend the day playing with the Atkins—our family ages match up really well. Except for one of my littles. Justine does not have a 13-year child. We asked Ella if she would please go spend the day to be helpful and support Ms. Justine as she was watching a gaggle of children, and maybe, just maybe, she would also find some fun of her own. Ella agreed, as she knew that she could offer help to Ms. Justine, as well as enjoy herself at the same time.

Ella came home proudly telling me about her time with Justine. She told me how open-hearted Ms. Justine is with her and let her cook with her. Oh love, oh love. Justine will continue to create a safe place to fall, as so many of my girlfriends are, that one day, one day big and open-hearted will be you as well. It wouldn’t look like Justine and me, but come close, I have a secret.... I think you already live this way. Big giant-hearted, open-hearted and full of such grace. You, my dear, well, it’s written all over you. You are treasured daughter of the King, of our home, and in the lives of countless others. Oh, my kids, my kids, my kids have been shown such generous love from many. So, so, so many!

That evening Jason brought dinner to my hospital room with all the kids. It was tight, but we were so glad to be together; we dog-piled each bed—kids, mamma’s bed, or the kids would snuggle in tight with my sister on her fold out bed. It proved to be a delightful. I spend my days resting so these brief visits can grow confidence in my children that I’m still here... I know I’m not fooling anyone. But it feels like my job to ready myself for the arrival of my loves. It’s not as though I pretend to be strong where I am not. I simply want to be present when they are present.

Goodness, will I ever, ever, ever get to this story? Relaying back to the top, Ella enjoyed her day with our giant-hearted friend Justine. She came in proudly to my hospital room carrying beautiful ceramic loaf pan filled with banana chocolate chip bread, still warm from the oven. She asked me to have some, I kindly declined—food wasn’t working for me, and especially sweets. Then I saw her face drop a bit. I turned to her and said, Goodness, please forgive me, I would love to have some of your beautiful creation. Soon, little brother came up and asked for a slice. She kindly handed over the slice to her beloved brother, Lake.

As they were all leaving that night, we gave hugs, and loves all around. When it came to Ella, I thanked her for her hard work and her yummy gift. It wasn’t until night as I was literally eating every bit of the bread that Ella had made me when it finally dawned on me, smacked me in the face, brought me too a lucid place of understanding the BIG LOVE of my daughter. I cry now thinking of her wanting to bring me something special. Special for me, her sick mama.

I get what Ella was doing because I’m doing it too. I’m fighting to love those in my life with great intention from my little abilities. I struggle with having so little love to return to my people as they continue to lavish, lavish, lavish BIG LOVE on me. I simply feel so inadequate. clicking a few buttons to purchase gifts on the computer feels like an unrealistic way to show my love, but this hospital bed feels so limiting.

Then, all at once, it hits me. This little loaf of bread meant just for me, was intended to show me specific love from my daughter to lift my weary heart. Goodness, how blessed I truly am. I later called Ella and apologized for not immediately seeing her big love. I told her through the course of the evening I devoured each bite of her bread. And with each bite I knew she loved me. Her love was the very best ingredient. And even sweeter than all the yummy bread, I believe my Justine was teaching my little girl the ways of loving another with intention. And guess what? Ella was listening. And though I want to be that teacher—the hard peace is coming—my children are and will continue to be kept long past my last breath. Now that’s a stunner.

We are all stumbling through this dance trying our best to cherish one another with intention. All the stuff, the stuff will one day land in a goodwill box, but the memory of my girl bringing me a hot loaf of bread will forever remain with me. Seeing my children grow in grace and the BIG overflowing love of Jesus—well, that’s my favorite gift given this year, one that I didn’t even ask for but was deeply loved out of the intentional love of another.

How is this holiday reminding you of the big GIANT love of Jesus? Has it been hard for you to see the warm loaves of bread that show grace, or has your warm love gone unnoticed today? All this amazing effort you put into your love—how do you give it with an open hand? Or is all the going, shopping, stress, leaving you frayed and daunted by Christmas? I have been stopped by a long hospital visit, and I simply cannot go, I have little attention for the internet.

Jesus, dearest Jesus, would you hear the heavy cries of our hearts. Will you accept our feeble attempts at worship and holding high the name of Jesus through this season? Jesus, would you tenderly keep us and love us well. This is to be a time where we remember the humility it took for you to enter this place. But you did come, and you left behind the biggest love there is—you left yourself behind. You overcame death, and in the power of that resurrection and that suffering, you showed us all grace. Yet still, we are dumb sheep, ever forgetting the true meaning of this season. Thank you for growing your beauty, your specific beauty into my children. In their eyes I see many things: fear, worry, uncertainty, but I always, always, always see love. Love has a way of rising to the surface if you let it. Lastly Jesus, would you let me go home for a bit to be wrapped in the love of my people?

If you wouldn’t mind today, my sister is flying home to her people today—would you please pray for her? She has given so much of herself this weekend. She stayed right by my side. She makes me laugh, helps me walk, shower, eat. I’m her first baby—the real kind. And she very much mothers me every chance she gets. Leaving is hard for her, but staying is even harder. She has her life going on several states over. Pray she would be able to leave here and embrace there without worry over her little sister. Would you pray that she knows great peace. Help her BIG love show up for her three daughters and her husband. Jesus, thank you for how you made my sister. What a gift she is to us all.