No More I’m Sorry’s

I seem to spend more time reflecting on eternity when I reflect on the passing of time. And I am more aware of the passing of time when I’m approaching a birthday. In this case, mine.

Most people who know me, know that it bothers me when people detest aging and even more when they detest the aged. I spend enough time with people who celebrate their children’s birthdays by the month to think of more time with loved ones as anything but a good thing. Enough time praying my children into adulthood not to appreciate every wrinkle and every grey hair signaling my own. Enough time trying to glean wisdom from the aged to think of their time as anything but a treasure.

Yet, as much as I appreciate and value the moments here and desire to fulfill the responsibilities set before me (especially those responsibilities related to my family), an enormous part of me longs for my true home. At times I feel like this is contradictory and I sympathize with and understand better what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.”

To be here, enjoying the good gifts my Father has given me here, and to take seriously the ministry He has set before me is a beautiful thing and not something to desire ending prematurely. But to die, if that is gain, what can that mean?! If it’s to gain, it has to mean that it is better than anything here. That it would, in no way, be a loss. It would mean there is no need for a “bucket list”, no need to do all the things and see all the things before time “runs out”. Because that would somehow imply that the room our Lord prepared for us in our Father’s house is somehow “less than” what we have here. Wouldn’t it?

So, if I war within myself on the subject of death and eternity, how then does one explain it to an eight year old? Mini Hubby, as usual, has had big things going on in his little, developing mind. He knows that we are promised no more pain and no more suffering. But lately, that has not been enough to stop his fear of death and an unknown/unseen place.

No problem, as a director of Children’s Ministry, I’ve totally got this. Hopefully.

We made a list of what we think heaven would not have if there was no more pain and no more suffering. Not necessarily in order of importance.

  • No puke
  • No blood
  • No hunger
  • No thirst
  • No bee stings
  • No mosquito bites
  • No stubbed toes
  • No COVID
  • No rust
  • No hang nails
  • No cancer
  • No car accidents
  • No doctors
  • No lawyers
  • No prisons

(I’ll admit to not thinking about those last three until we were brainstorming. Fascinating.)

But, simply the absence of pain and suffering was still not enough to relieve his fear. So, I suggested we make a list of what we think it might feel like to be there. This time we did it separately. This is mine:

Rainbows! Sunrises and sunsets that can’t be duplicated by man. The smell of freshly mowed grass, baking bread and salty wind off the ocean and into your face. The breath stealing moment of awe at the power in Niagra Falls or the carving of the Grand Canyon. Your hand in grandpa’s. Warm feet digging into cool sand. Sliding into fresh bedding after a hard day. The smell of grandma’s house. Hot chocolate in the cold. That moment when you exchange the rings, hold the baby and cheer for the victory. Reunions. Happy tears. Oh, Lord! That too brief moment of worship in Spirit and truth. When the world melts away, time ceases to exist, and you’re in full communion with the One who made you. For a few seconds. As close as you’ll be this side of eternity. Breathtaking. All of the best things about this world all at once.

Now, Mini Hubby will do most anything to get out of writing. So, his thoughts could be seen as a reflection of his aversion to a pencil, or, they could be further proof of what I’ve experienced with children time and time again…

Child like faith. With less exposure to this world, they seem far less tethered to it than we are. It just seems to make it all less complicated to them.

He wrote simply:

Jesus. No more I’m sorry’s.

And with that, my eight year old grasped heaven with both his sweet little hands. Because heaven includes our sin washing, heart renewing, saint shepherding Jesus, we will not enter with our sin. Nor will anyone else who has trusted in Him. We will no longer hurt others and they will no longer hurt us. And I just can’t imagine a better feeling combination than the presence of our Savior and the absence of our shame. Especially in the hurting, fallen world we currently inhabit.

So, did I help Mini Hubby with his fear of death and the unknown heaven? I’m not sure. Time will tell. But, I know he sure clarified things for me.

And I just can’t imagine a better feeling combination than the presence of our Savior and the absence of our shame.

Or, no more “I’m Sorry” ‘s

“He has adorned you with the gift of grace and adopted you as His child.He has given you His own Word to educate you for heaven; He has opened your eyes so that now you see. By His grace and your cooperation, your soul will gradually develop into a more perfect resemblance to Him. Finally, your heavenly Father calls you home where you will see the angels and saints clothed with the beauty of Christ Himself, standing around His throne and hearing the word that will admit you into their society: Well done, thou good and faithful slave; . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord (Matthew 25:21).” D.L. Moody, Heaven

For my birthday I’m fundraising for some of those families that celebrate their children’s birthdays by the month. Join me here:

https://www.facebook.com/donate/286126489718958/?fundraiser_source=external_url

Full of FORTY years

You guys!! I’m so excited for my birthday this year. Why? Because I’m going to be FORTY! The big 4-0. Not the new 30, but a full forty years!

I’m pretty bummed that this whole pandemic thing will seriously impact any real celebration but I suppose in light of the big picture, not celebrating me is a relatively small thing.

And now you’re wondering if I’m being sarcastic. I’m not. But I wasn’t always excited about milestone birthdays. I vaguely remember impatiently waiting for my 18th birthday and the independence it signified but after that I must have greatly matured in patience because I don’t remember counting down the days until I turned 30? No, this celebrating of years passing is relatively new and I suspect the Lord, and my children, have something to do with it. Or more accurately, the way the Lord has used my kids to teach me the value of years.

When we received the kids’ diagnosis, one of the first things that hit me in the gut was reading the case studies and seeing the lifespan of untreated CTX patients. I think most parents realize, in some remote part of their psyche, that there is a possibility of out living their children but there is something about coming face to face with that reality that takes a parent’s breath away. Whether we consciously think of it or not, we have plans for our children. We might not have planned our daughter’s wedding, or thought of names for our grandchildren, but we wonder if little Johnny with the great fine motor skills will be a mechanic like Dad or if little Jenny with the flare for arguments will be an attorney like grandpa. We at least plan for them to have a life full of years, even if we don’t map out said years. We take if for granted that they will at least see the years we have seen. Or at least I did.

It was when I started thinking about the years my kids could miss that I truly started celebrating the years we have. The years we’ve been given. I started remembering something….

Genesis 25:8

And Abraham passed away and died in a good old age, old and full of years. And he was gathered to his people.

Full of years

I started to think not about the time I’m losing, the things I’m losing, but about what I’ve gained. That the years are full of days and days of minutes and minutes full of moments that have created memories and character and lessons and wisdom that make up…. a lifetime. Which means, the more years I’m given, the more I get to celebrate.

April 22nd, I will celebrate forty years FULL. Full of laughter, tears, new adventures and less fear. I will celebrate gained peace, wisdom, weight and even the lines around my eyes. (Incidentally, I will NOT be celebrating gravity). Because I haven’t lost a thing (Nope, not a pound). Even the moments, days, and a couple of years in which I thought I lost the most, I gained. I might not have been able to see at the time, but even those years of loss were FULL… of hidden blessings.

Now, present circumstances considered, I don’t see much chance for birthday presents. But that’s okay! Why? Because, I already have the greatest gift of all. It’s a gift I open anew every morning. The gift of the Gospel. Every morning I am able to fully embrace the day, yet hold it in open hands. Whether He gives me another forty years, or calls me Home that day, I can rest in the knowledge that because of the atoning blood of Christ Jesus I know there will be no death for me, not even when He determines I’m full of years. I’ll celebrate that gift this Easter Sunday… and will wait to celebrate 40 years when I can do it with cake!

Twice Saved

I met her twenty years ago, before either of us had met Jesus. Back then she sat in her recliner opposite the matching one her husband occupied, wearing what I would come to recognize as her typical uniform of worn out flannel and faded sweatpants. Hair cropped short and not a stitch of artificial color on it, or her face, she sported twenty year old glasses and a deep, rough, smokers laugh as she told stories of hunting and “mudding” and cleaning fish with her bare teeth. Okay, I made up the last part about her teeth, but she definitely cleaned her own fish, along with anyone else’s. She was “butch” before being butch was cool. She fascinated and scared me in equal measures…and I was dating her son.

Over the next several years, we’d shop together, eat together, smoke together and laugh together. Turned out she wasn’t as scary as she seemed and neither was her son. I married him and gained her.

She liked to tease that she liked me better than him and that there were no refunds, he was mine for good. But she’d prove over and over again that she loved us both the same. She called me her daughter, and he was still her son. She’ll always be my Mom.

We built our home, and our family, right next door to this lady with the men’s size 10 feet. And those feet would regularly make the trek between the houses for awhile. Three grandkids would soften and delight that rough around the edges lady in ways I hadn’t seen coming. They’d light up her face and dull her colorful vocabulary.

Until those work damaged arms screamed loud for pain meds. And the doctors gave them.

And then gave more.

Until that hard working, hard loving, hard living Mom stayed put in that worn out recliner for years. Barely recognizable, she stopped working, stopped loving and stopped living. Sometimes only awake for a few hours a day.

We thought we lost her for good then. That generous lady that sent diaper coupons to distant nieces and nephews starting their own families, dozens of bottles of baby soap and lotion to the ones that were close, paper plates and napkins for every family get together and cards to everyone for every occasion.

Then, just when we were grieving our own personal tragedy…she met Jesus.

Now, when a person taking enough oxycontin to bring down a horse tells you they’ve been talking to Jesus, you don’t take them too serious like. You start believing that this is about to be another personal tragedy. And you start crying out to your own personal Jesus (the One that tends to speak to you through His Word, in your prayer closet, not in the flesh) for some relief.

That’s when it happened. It turned out her Jesus and our Jesus were the same and He told her to dump out her pain medication, that she didn’t need it anymore. So she did.

Because Jesus can reach you even in a drug induced fog and when He tells you to do something….you do it.

Twenty years of narcotic use fell away like as many chains, gone as quickly as those pills skittered and slid to the bottom of the garbage can. And those doctors that gave them to her? Kept her for three days to witness a miracle by the Great Physician. No withdrawal, no pain. Until they finally said they had no reason to keep her and no medical explanation for what just took place.

Her miracle wasn’t without some consequences though. Twenty years of increased doses did some damage to both brain and body but for the next two years she learned to live and love hard again and we enjoyed every minute of learning to live with, and love her, back.

She played BINGO, returned to competitive shooting, watched middle school orchestra concerts and elementary school programs. She went to movies, the town fair (complete with kiddie rides), filled grandkids full of junk food and ice cream, and even learned how to use a debit card. She laughed, and played, and even though she might not have had the capacity to read and study the Bible, I absolutely believe she knew and trusted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

In fact, she’d tell you He saved her twice.

Today, my greedy, selfish, heart is a little disappointed it doesn’t appear that He’s going to save her a third.

I’m grieving the pending loss of our Mom and Grammy from this world while trying to remember to be grateful for the gift she was. Trying to thank Him for giving her back to us once, long enough to soak up her silly personality and sweet generosity at a time we desperately needed both.

Praising a loving Savior powerful enough to save us from both the grave, and the chains that bind us here.

Rejoicing in the knowledge that no matter what, we will meet again, in heaven.

Birthday Suit

Trigger Warning!

If you fear aging, or vague references to female anatomy, this blog post may not be for you.

If, on the other hand, you are brave and have a sense of humor, forge ahead!

Today I’ve turned 38. I’ll wait for the applause to die down.

I know, big stuff, right?! Believe you me, I’m as surprised as you are. (This is even more shocking for anyone that spent time with me as a teenager.)

Unlike some people, I’ve always really enjoyed my birthday. Even as I’ve gotten older. Maybe it’s the cake and presents. Maybe it’s because I value life a little more than I once did. Kind of strange, but I even love the lines by my mouth and eyes that prove years of laughter. Even my many scars come with great stories. I truly desire the wisdom gained by experience.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t take both the 18 year old body as well as the wisdom if given the opportunity, but since I live with a teenager it is very evident to me that one cannot have both a youthful body and wisdom. What I am saying is, that normally I’m very content with the trade off.

Now, all this to say that this is the first year I may have freaked out a little as my birthday approached. I believe it’s completely warranted but I’ll let you decide what you think.

For the past several months I’d been experiencing pain on my left side. As there was a lull in the kids’ medical care, I decided it would be a good idea to get it checked out. After a couple ultrasounds, a CT scan and plenty of bloodwork, it was determined that I had a cyst that needed to go, along with some girl parts that were no longer required (Congratulations, you survived the vague female anatomy reference). After some watchful waiting and discussing and a lot of sitting on the couch with a heating pad we decided laparoscopic surgery was necessary. I’ve had a few surgeries over the years so this was less upsetting to me than it was to Hubby. (Maybe because he knew he’d be mom for a bit?)

Surgery was a same day affair and really went off without a hitch. I generally have no issues with anesthesia and have actually been told I’m kind of a good time while sedated. After a little trouble getting my bladder to shake off the anesthetic, I was discharged and sent home that evening. This is when things sort of went downhill.

I was sitting on the couch, propped up with a half dozen pillows a day later when I started to cough. If you’ve ever had abdominal surgery you likely just winced and recoiled a little. And you’d be right. I drained a couple more glasses of water coffee, soda and juice as I tried my best to brace with a pillow for each cough but as the day wore on, the coughing grew worse. At this point, I am mentally cursing every drug addict that has been part of the opioid crisis that has left me without pain medication after surgery. I’m short on sleep and long on sarcasm. Not a great combination when I call the surgeon’s office begging for a cough suppressant. I may or may not have been a bit unkind when the very helpful nurse asked if I’d tried hot tea, bracing with a pillow over the incisions and a humidifier. She called in a cough suppressant.

Fast forward a couple of days and the cough has turned into the most horrible cough you have ever heard. The very helpful nurse calls and gives me the good news that the pathology of the cyst was benign. Yay God! But that endometriosis was confirmed. (Ha! Tricked you with another female anatomy reference! Don’t Google it. Trust me.) This did not make me any more kind.

Now, I’m gingerly “rushing” around the house to get the kids ready and out the door for school when it happens. The most horrible cough starts up. And this time won’t stop. Literally one after another, until I can’t breathe. My chest is actually sucking in as I’m clutching my sides in a vain attempt to stop the searing pain. I’m pretty sure I’m a goner. When I realize I’m going to throw up. I actually do run to the bathroom and almost make it. Almost. While I’m steadying myself to try to get down onto the floor I’m sucking in breath like a fish out of water. I know at least my eyes are bulging. And tearing. And because it can always get worse, my poor little over worked bladder decides it has also had enough.

So, there I am, gasping for breath, shaking, exhausted, in pain and covered in my own bodily fluids. I give up on the idea of getting the kids to school and stick them in front of the Xbox. I climb into the shower and I start to cry and pray and cry some more. When I’m done, I call the clinic for an appointment.

My sleep deprived brain goes right from the city of Molehill to the top of the mountain. I spend the remainder of the day looking around my house at all of the mess. The overflowing laundry baskets, the piles of stuff EVERYWHERE, the stack of unpaid bills, the children going on 6 hours straight of electronics and am certain that I’m worthless. I am falling apart. I can’t clean, cook, drive, do laundry or paperwork. I can’t even hold my bladder! By the time Hubby gets home I’ve just about taken the train all the way to Crazy town. He can’t possibly be attracted to me. Half my girl parts are gone (Sorry!) and of course I’ll just end up losing the rest of them because, well, endometriosis. Sigh. Hubby does his best to annoy distract me and I make it to my doctor appointment the next morning.

Insult to injury, I’ve accumulated another 4 lbs. Apparently even the most horrible cough and the vomiting are no match for my couch and church lady cooking. Feeling bad for myself, I was texting a sweet friend about my body falling apart and feeling a bit worthless when she re-reminded me of something.

“He can ONLY use a broken you.”

And when I got to the exam room:

I started thinking about how He couldn’t use the put together me. The had it all figured out me. The didn’t need anyone else, I’ll do it on my own me. The whole body works well me.

I started thinking about how focused I’d been lately on how the world saw me, instead of how the world would see Him in me.

This very sweet lady came in next and gently reminded me that I’d just had major abdominal surgery, with a complication of bronchitis. That I needed to give myself, and my body, some grace. Not to mention time. She sent me home with instructions to REST.

So, here I am, resting. In God’s grace. In His presence. And thanking Him for the present of a rather damaged birthday suit. He can work with that.