Surreal

9/11 and Caregiving

In those surreal moments, remember you're not alone

In those surreal moments, remember you’re not alone

Surreal.  It’s a feeling that has been following me around this week.

Today, 9/11, definitely sparks memories of that day 15 years ago when I walked my oldest into her first grade classroom to find her teacher not paying attention to the arrival of the children like he usually did.  Instead he sat transfixed in front of the wall-mounted TV.  I watched reruns of the plane hitting the first tower, my heart rate increasing with each commentator’s announcement. Just as I wrapped my mind around one plane and one tower, another plane came from the side of the screen and blew into the second tower.  I made sure the teacher was watching the kids again, then I ran home.  And that is not a figure of speech.  I ran.  All the way home.  I burst into the bathroom and updated my husband and then glued myself to the television for the next couple of hours.

Surreal.

Over and over watching the planes crash, seeing items falling from the building and gradually realizing it was people jumping.  And then the worst moment, the collapse of the tower.  By the collapse of the second tower, feelings were numb.  The surreal feeling was the absolute certainty that this was terrorist, that this was planned and that this was evil.  The surreal unknown was that we didn’t know what was next.  Who was next.

Surreal.  The whole thing.

This week, for some reason, I’ve seen one St. Jude Children’s Hospital commercial over and over.  It’s a lovely family with three children (like us) and it appears the oldest has cancer (it was our youngest).  The dad talks about how wonderful it is that St. Jude’s has never given them a bill (why couldn’t we have been in THAT hospital).  The mom talks about the worries you have as a parent and how nice that St. Jude lessens those worries and you can concentrate on your child (concentrate on your child – the only thing a parent can do in that circumstance).  That’s all very nice.  But EVERY time, and I do mean EVERY time, I see that commercial, I get an adrenaline rush and that surreal feeling.

This week, as I watched my cancer-free sixteen-year-old struggle to find his footing in a new school, as I cut his fast-growing hair, as he hugged me from his six-foot-height, that surreal feeling overwhelmed me.  It wasn’t that long ago that we were fighting for his very next breath.  It wasn’t that long ago we were praying with every ounce of energy that he would wake up the next day.  It wasn’t that long ago we anointed him for healing.  It wasn’t that long ago I was pushing his pain med. pump after a bone marrow test and it wasn’t any time at all since I sat with my child, mask over his face, in the playroom, looking out the window at the world – just like in the commercial.

At the end of that commercial my heart aches for that family, and for the countless other families that are in the midst of that surreal moment of catastrophic illness and facing their child’s death.  My heart almost stops when I think of friends whose child did not make it through the battle.  Because while fighting for your child/s life is surreal, losing your child is the worst form of reality.

This blog is for those walking difficult journeys.  Those caregivers who are facing so much uncertainty that the surreal feeling never leaves and overwhelmed is a constant adjective with which you describe your life.  It’s for those who struggle with mental illness, or the loved ones who join in that fight.  It’s for mother’s of sick children, it’s for spouses who have had to change their job description.  It’s for worried dad’s and hurting families and caring friends. Anita and I pray that this blog is a place for anyone in need of the reminder that you’re not alone.

Through every surreal moment in your life, whether it be from memories of 9/11 or from caregiving or from just being careworn; there is someone reading this blog, or writing this blog, who is willing to pray for you.  You’re never alone.  But even better than that, the hope we want to offer is that you are never alone because the Creator of the Universe, the God of life, the Savior of the world, will never leave you nor forsake you.  Someday we’ll understand these surreal moments of life.  Until then, lean on the One who is able.

And if you’d like us to pray for you, please let us know!  Through any surreal moment – – you’re never alone.

Through any surreal moment - - you're never alone Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I found inspiration for my Monday at #inspirememondays. Join us! (tweet this)

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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God’s Timing Is Not All About Me

 

God's timing for our house was perfect. God's timing for our lives is perfect!

God’s timing for our house was perfect. God’s timing for our lives is perfect!

It’s been proven to me, yet again, that God’s timing is perfect.  That His will is best.  That I need to learn to relax: God’s got things under control.  That life is not all about me, that there are others needing things to happen as well.

This spring and early summer has been a crazy time for our family.  My husband and I traveled from one end of the country to the other trying to determine God’s will for our lives (jobs, kids, housing, etc).    After securing a job in California, we decided to post our house as “For Sale by Owner” and let God do His thing.

God’s ‘thing’ was to wait.  God sat quietly while I packed and worried.  We had no place to live in California, and we had no bites on our house.  I packed.  I fretted.

I tried not to, I really did.  I prayed often throughout the day and gave my worries to God – over and over again.  As those sneaky little worries kept coming back, I’d pray them away again. (more…)

Light the Next Step (and trust the Guide for the journey)

View from the top of La Nariz del Indio, Guatemala. Lighting up the boot heels worked – we found our way!

Single file, we trudged through the darkness.

Silence surrounded us, punctuated only by the strained breath of those not used to trekking up a mountain in darkness.  We’d never been on this trail before, and other trails branching off in different directions reminded us to stay closely behind the guide.  Our guide, Miguel, tromped ahead in his knee level rubber boots, grinning broadly whenever hit by the beam of a flashlight and tramping effortlessly along at our pace, at times dropping back to check on the slowest and then jogging ahead to point the way.

I hadn’t been hiking in a long time – not up a mountain anyway.

I live in Kansas.  The elevation and incline were taking their toll, but I doggedly kept behind the guide, my breath growing shorter with every intake.

I also wasn’t used to hiking in the dark.  Miguel had no flashlight – knowing the trail by memory.  The rest of us in the silent group traipsing through the pre-dawn time had a wide variety of light.  My daughter carried her phone that lit up the trail around her feet.  Another, Victor, carried a lantern that flickered with each swing but didn’t lend much assistance to finding the trail.  I had a pak-lite; a light invented for hiking in darkness and for ease of carrying.  It’s tiny and I always have it in my backpack.  So even though we hadn’t planned on this hike, I had my little light and it lit up just enough ahead of me to keep the guide’s feet in my view.  Another lady had a big heavy flashlight with a weak beam that made it hardly worth the weight.  The stars were brilliant overhead and while the peace was amazing, the complete darkness beyond the feeble circles of light made for slightly eerie hiking.

None of us were worried – we were headed as high as we could go in order to watch the sunrise over the volcanic mountains around Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

The trail switch backed up the mountain and tourist tennis shoes slipped and slid up the incline.  I stayed as close as I could get to the guide as my eyes could see nothing beyond his shadow.  Labored breathing now punctuated the darkness – my labored breathing.  I couldn’t catch my breath for some strange reason and I began to hear a bit of a whine to my gasps for breath.

I trained my tiny light forward, focusing on the those rubber-boot-heels and trudged on, blessing the family who had gifted me with my pak-lite.  Those boot-heels began to mean the world to me.

Silence continued as I followed those boots up another steep section, tripping over rocks and roots.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet

 And a light unto my Path.

The words sang through my brain.  I couldn’t see the trail nor the top of the mountain.  The cliffs below or the coffee plants mixed in the trees just beyond the edge didn’t become visible until the hike back down.

All I could see were the heels of my guide.  My guide who ran this trail four or five times a day,  who knew ALL the trails on this mountain as well as he knew the faces of his children.  The guide who jogged back along the line to make sure all followed safely behind him.  I pursued those heels over a hole and up another switchback.

There are lots of decisions to make in my life.  I like to have a plan – to know the future.  I prefer to have everything neatly packaged and gift-wrapped before I commit to anything.  If only I could have a million-candle-watt spotlight that will whoosh down the trail and light up the trees on all sides and blind any animal in its path, and reveal any scary spots. Instead, I have a pak-light.  I have a Word that tells me to trust the feet of my Guide, who knows my life Path like He knows the faces of His children. 

I have a tiny but mighty light that illuminates my path only one step at a time, but as long as I can step in each footprint left by my Guide, I can stay on the right trail.

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And when we climbed around the last corner and I grabbed onto rocks and pulled up the last steep part and we rounded the corner we could see the slightly glowing horizon where the sun was preparing its arrival.  We stood entranced, breathing hard, but victorious while Miguel grinned in pride of his mountain and view.  We watched the sun rise behind the silhouettes of the volcanos and the rays of warmth reached across the tranquil waters of the lake, welcoming us to a new day.

By trusting the Light and following carefully in the steps of our Guide, we CAN reach the top and experience victory!

By trusting the Light and following carefully in the steps of our Guide, we CAN reach the top and experience victory!

Trust the Guide to light your path! #inspirememonday #lightuntomypath Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I'm joining my friends @blestbutstrest and @caregiver mom for an #inspirational link up. Check out the great stories! Click To Tweet

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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An Open Letter to the New Cancer Caregiver Mom

New Caregiver MomWay back in that far away place stood a stunned mother, desperately trying to understand, to cope and to still look to the future when the world had narrowed to a small hospital room with a narrow bed and an even smaller boy.

I found out this week that even over 10 years later this same stunned mother still stands, frozen with emotion at times.  I think I’m doing fine:  I can’t really say I’m “normal” because, well, who among us can claim that, but I function quite well, thank you very much.  I teach and I write and I hang with my kids and I sing and I’m, well, shoot, I really am normal!

But then, just when things are plugging along and feeling normal, along comes that word.  That C word: Cancer.  And even more specifically, that L word: Leukemia.  And those rushing whirling feelings return.  They’re different now, but they’re there.

Way back, in those far away and fuzzy times, one of our blessings was a very supportive community.  A part of this community was my husband’s vice-principal who took on any task needed in order to ease our cancer caregiving burdens through that first year of chemotherapy for our four-year-old boy.  His wife understood and quietly helped whenever she was able and prayed for us often.

So when I saw her Facebook post this last week, about a student’s shocking leukemia diagnosis, you can imagine how my mind took flight to those long ago, whirl-wind days of learning our son was fighting each moment in an internal war.  I instant-messaged my friend, and we began to dialogue and she told me she’d already shared a piece of my journey with the ‘new mother’.  The mother I imagine stands in a horrifying swirl of new vocabulary, new schedules and a new “normal”.  Could she connect us to each other?

Oh my, yes.!  Because in that whirling foggy world of a cancer diagnosis, one can always use an anchor of someone who’s been there.  Someone who’s come out the other side.  Someone who understands that in spite of the most amazing community of support one can feel alone.  Someone who knows what it feels like to hold your child while they’re poked with needles.  Someone who’s worn gloves in order to touch their child.  Someone who’s discouraged visitors from the isolation room of the cancer ward.  Someone who’s watched a Disney movie for the 4, 875th time.  Someone who would give ANYTHING to be in that bed in place of their child.  Someone who has been forever changed by their journey and can offer support and yes, tell you that you’ll be okay. So here’s my letter to every new cancer caregiver mom out there:

Dear Caregiver Mom;

Your “normal” will be different, in ways you’re only beginning to understand, and really, as much as you tell yourself to hang on until life “returns to normal”, you’ll gradually realize it won’t ever return to the way it was; but you’ll be okay.

Your cancer education, started this week, will continue with an intensity that will startle you and then all of the sudden you’ll be the one reminding the doctors of the treatment protocol and you’ll know all the medication names and you’ll have the schedule memorized and your life will revolve around doctors and hospitals, fevers and blood counts; and you’ll be okay.

Complete strangers will become some of your best friends and you will see beauty in a whole new way because of the giving spirit of people and you’ll know the nurses by the sound of their footsteps and you’ll get mad at insurance agents and wonder who in the world you’ve become, but the new you is going to be okay.

You and God might have some intense conversations and you might not agree with Him, you might yell or cry and you’ll definitely laugh with tears; and through every step of this horrible journey of mothering and caregiving your leukemic son, God will never leave you nor forsake you, and you’ll be okay.

I would like to tell you that your son will be healed and his miraculous story will guide him through the next 85 years, but we don’t know that yet do we?  What we know is that God loves your boy and God loves you and no matter the outcome of this horrid process of leukemia treatment, you ALL will be okay.  God promises eternal love and so you will be all right.

You’re stronger than you ever imagined, and you can do things you never expected, and in the end, you’ll be okay.

That’s the thing, dear reader, whatever you’re facing, no matter how you feel in this moment right now,  in the end you WILL BE okay.  God’s got you.  God’s got the one you love.  You’ll all be okay.

Sincerely, 

Caregiver Mom

Rise to the Occasion and Do What Terrifies You

John 12:26Rise and follow seem to go together like macaroni and cheese. But sometimes, I feel like it would be easier to just sit on the ground—paralyzed and holding out my alms cup waiting for grace to trickle in.

But when Jesus heals us—whether it’s from addictions, sorrow, grief, illness, depression, mental illness, ennui, anger or attitude—he also asks us to follow.

And following often seems harder than rising. If I follow Jesus, I can no longer sit.

If I follow Jesus I can no longer sit. Click To TweetI must learn to do—because that’s what Jesus did. He took on injustice and called it by name. He called children to him and blessed them. He hung out with sinners and tax collectors and people who didn’t grow up in his socio-economic bracket.

He acted. And that’s where I struggle. I’d rather read about injustice in my Facebook newsfeed than do something about it (although I am learning to speak out). I’d rather donate a little money here and there to solve a big problem, than to sit down next to someone in their messy problem and show them empathy.

I can’t use the fact that I’m an introvert as an excuse. So tomorrow, I’m stepping way outside my comfort zone and we’re taking two teenage boys camping and mountain biking with us to Moab. They’re boys that have gone on many of our rides this school year, and they need a little TLC.

We raised two girls. All I know about boys is that they eat a lot. I hope I have enough food to feed them. I worry about what we’ll talk about during the long drive there.

The situation terrifies me. But I know that I worry too much and that with God leading, I can rise to the occasion and he’ll show me what to do and give me words to speak.

How about you? Have you ever followed Jesus with fear and trembling into an unknown experience?

Watching the Door of My Lips

SunsetPedro invited two students over for dinner, and after dessert, I slipped away to join the Five-minute Friday Twitter party. The boys have been guests at our house before, and they know the tradition—after eating comes the loud music. Toby Mac’s voice pulsates through the house—right on cue with Kate Motaung revealing the prompt for this week: DOOR.

I try to think, but the lyrics cancel out anything I try to type, and I notice that my words have mixed with song lyrics on the computer screen. I feel like saying something, but I don’t. I’ve learned the hard way to control my impulses to blurt out what’s on my mind.

Instead, I grab my laptop and head out the door where I move a lawn chair in front of the garage and settle down to write.

Five hummingbirds whiz by to my left, distracting me just as badly as the lyrics did just minutes ago. Fingers of the last light brush the treetops across from me, and the horizon turns all purply-pink around the sun’s setting glow. Bullock’s Orioles land on the hummingbird feeder and the sparrows and house finches settle down for the night while a rooster crows off in the distance.

The door hasn’t provided a solution for me at all. But it has given me a different perspective. The noises outside form a cacophony as loud as the one inside. Zoom! A hummer buzzes overhead, curious about my pink shirt and two orioles chatter and fly off together.

As the sunset colors deepen, I run inside to grab my camera (sometimes, an iPhone just doesn’t do a sunset justice) and stand in the middle of the street to frame up the best shot.

Five minutes have come and gone, and I realize, once again, how God works in mysterious ways. The hurried afternoon of trying to fit everything in, plus some extra, has ended in a brilliant panorama of color and sound that only a faithful God could imagine. I feel blessed because I exercised self-control and knew when to head out the door for a new perspective.

When I Remember

When I RememberThe words from the song we sang at summer camp reverberate in my head.

“When I remember that he died for me, I’ll never go back any more, Hallelujah!”

As a staff member singing along with the kids, my favorite part involved the hand motions—all 300 campers and 80 staff members would throw their arms above their heads and wave their hands each time we sang the word “Hallelujah!”—a shocking occurrence for bunch of conservative Christians back in the 80s when praise music and guitars had yet to infiltrate the sanctuaries of the local churches.

But there’s something about the catchy tune that stuck. Jesus. Died for ME. The older I get, the more I realize that I’m a sinner in need of grace. My raised hands answer the question of, “Who needs Jesus?” with a resounding, hand-waving, “I DO!”

“When I remember that he rose again, I’ll never go back any more, Hallelujah!”

The gospel story. So simple, yet so true. Because Jesus died for me and rose again, he broke sin’s grip on humanity. He broke sin’s grip on MY life. I want to pull up a chair and spend time with God—to explore the why, the how, the great love that orchestrated the solution to sin.

“When I remember that he’s coming soon, I’ll never go back any more, Hallelujah!”

That stanza brings me to tears when my heavy heart aches for friends whose loss leaves a gaping hole in their lives. The loss won’t be permanent. Jesus is coming soon. (tweet this)

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Cor. 15:55

Hallelujah!

Share

Don't be afraid to share http://wp.me/s2UZoK-share via @blestbutstrest“Anyone need a pair of gloves?” I called out to the group of 17 excited students as we waited in the ski lodge. A chorus of “I dos!” overwhelmed me, and I noticed for the first time how inadequately prepared most of the kids were.

Last night I sorted through the bins of gloves and mittens that have languished in my closet for three years—we don’t need them in Arizona the same way we needed them in Montana. I found ten pairs of stretchy gloves—the kind you buy at Wal Mart for a dollar a pair, and two pairs of matching ski gloves and a mitten/glove mismatched pair.

I tossed them all in a big shopping bag on the off chance that a student or two might forget their mittens. I threw in a pair of purple long johns, an extra beanie, and a pair of waterproof rain pants—just in case.

The bus had left in the cold predawn, and the students were supposed to have proper clothing. The school provided helmets for all of them, but evidently we adults speak a different language from our students.

When we say, “Do you have a warm coat?”, they hear, “Do you have a sweatshirt that zips up?” When we say, “Do you have ski pants?”, they hear, “Do you have clean jeans?”. When we say, “Do you have mittens or gloves,” they hear, “Do you think your fingers might get cold in the snow? (the internal answer to that one is, “Naw, I’m good.”).

And so I shared. I passed out all but one pair of stretchy gloves (after all, I needed to keep my fingers warm), the purple long johns (a cold young man was not too proud to wear them), the rain pants (I offered them to the boy who showed up in shorts) and the beanie.

Despite the freezing cold and the gently falling snow—the kids had a blast at ski school (it was the first time out for most of them).

I get it. I really do. Our students don’t go skiing or snowboarding very often (once a year or once in their life). It doesn’t snow very often in the high desert of Arizona, so no one buys snow clothes (REAL snow clothes, not jeans and sweatshirts). But, oh, I wish I had so much more to share!

Always Welcome (Really)

Carol Bovee

 

 

She threw the cupboard doors open and slung open a drawer in one grand gesture. “Here are the glasses and the silverware. So now you know where everything is. You just make yourself at home!” I smiled self-consciously and apologized for the umpteenth time that we were in her house.

She paused and smiled graciously, “We wouldn’t have it any other way!” she exclaimed. And she meant it.
Throughout our two days in the home of our friends, both husband and wife made sure to tell us how happy they were to have us there and how fun it was to visit a bit and they made sure all SIX of us, plus our dog, were as comfortable as we could possibly be.

I did not feel welcome.

I felt uncomfortable. Not because she wasn’t welcoming, but because she was! She was so happy. And gracious. And hospitable. This couple could not have been more accommodating or kind or welcoming. They are the warmest, loveliest people you’d ever want to meet and not once, not even the tiniest little bit, did they make us feel as though we were an inconvenience or an unwelcome surprise. In spite of the fact they already had company, they literally welcomed us with open arms.

I felt unwelcome because of ME. I could chalk it up to the fact that I had just contracted a horrible case of poison oak all over my neck and both forearms and I get it so bad I feel physically sick (not just itchy). I could claim that I was embarrassed that there were six of us and a dog dirtying up their space. I could say that the car accident that wiped our transportation out from under us and prevented us from going anywhere and landing us in the house until further notice had traumatized me. I could suppose it was because I was tired from an intense week of hard work made harder by emotional ups and downs that go with sorting out an estate. Legitimate reasons—all of them.

But the truth is that I felt unwelcome simply because I didn’t feel that I deserved to be there. Our visit was not planned. They were “stuck” with us because of a car accident. We were dirty and tired and ready to be home and I was embarrassed. I was ashamed of my oozing poison oak, self-conscious that six people eat lots of food and we had nothing with us and I was very aware that doggy breath doesn’t endear itself to home-owners. I felt unworthy.
In other words, I chose to consider myself unwelcome. I felt that I needed to fix myself up to be a better guest. Be cleaner, funnier, less tired, less needy. I searched for something to offer these generous and loving friends of ours and I came up blank. So how in the world could they want me in their home?

As we loaded our rental van to complete our cross-country trip to home, she thanked us for staying and mentioned what a blessing it had been to have us in her home and extended a welcome for any time in the future (hopefully without an accident involved).

A blessing? For her? Are you kidding?

The blessing was all ours. We deserved no thanks. The gifts given were all from them to us, none the other direction. If only we were worthy of that blessing.

Jesus stands with His arms open wide. He bids all those who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him and He will give us rest for our souls. He tells us to ask, and it will be given. He shouts that He loves us with an everlasting love. Gifts. All of them. He welcomes us.

Do we feel welcome? If we don’t, it’s certainly not because He hasn’t told us in enough ways that He loves us, cares for us and wants us with Him.

It would be because we don’t choose it. We deem ourselves unworthy of His grace. We decide we need to clean up our oozing soul-sores and make sure our spiritual doggy-breath is fresh and we never quite feel worthy enough to enter His presence.

But we are created to be His best friends. He doesn’t care about our issues – He just cares about us. (tweet this)

He stands at our door and knocks, so that anyone who hears Him and receives Him may have a tight relationship with Him.

We are welcome!

Giveaway!

giftcardYesterday, I had my whole afternoon scheduled down to the minute (in an attempt to get more done and be more efficient). Guess what, it didn’t work. When I finished my blitz shopping at the local store, I pushed my cart through the doors and found my way blocked by a sweet little old lady who was looking at patio tables on sale in the entryway. I commented, “I didn’t know they had patio tables on sale! There’s snow outside!”

She looked at me and smiled and replied, “I guess I’m in your way.”

“It’s ok,” I said while I checked my phone to see how much time I had to spare before starting the next thing on my to-do list.

Her next words startled me. “Could you give me a ride home?”

“Um, sure,” I said. “Where do you live?” I hoped she didn’t live forty miles away, but quickly determined that if I said, ‘yes’, I really meant it. Regardless of how far away she lived. Around where I live, a lot of people hitch-hike to and from town for their weekly grocery shopping.

“I live back there in the trailer park,” she told me, motioning behind us. “I only have these two bags.”

I showed her where I had parked and helped her get loaded into the car. I could tell that English wasn’t her first language, but we managed to communicate just fine as I drove her the short distance home.

It may have been out of my way, and I may have gotten behind on my rigid scheduled to-do list. But the important thing is, my day felt enriched because I had an opportunity to give something away. I love it when God sends us little reminders that our focus shouldn’t be on OUR list and OUR wants and needs.

And so I’d like to give something else away (and give you an opportunity to help us). We’d love to keep in contact with you through a twice-a-month newsletter. Our newsletter is usually a simple recap of posts from the previous weeks so that if you’ve missed something, you can easily find the link. We promise to never flood your inbox with spammy junk mail and we don’t sell our subscriber lists or anything sleazy like that!