28 October 2014

Of the Ways They Interrupt

Every morning (or as best fits into the day's schedule) we read an excerpt from The Jesus Storybook Bible, after Momma has finished her eggs and while the kids continue to munch on their cereal. We've cycled through the story of God's people a few times by now, and each time we finish, we just come right back to The Beginning.

Today was the most serious of the readings. The Crucifixion.

As I read about how He carried his cross and the soldiers mocked him, trying my best, with my voice, to portray the gravity of the moment, each of my children clamored for my attention. Emmett, sitting closest, placed his hand gently on my arm. Joseph shot his arm in the air, Micaiah's hand also stood raised.

I finished the page and turned the book to show the pictures as I addressed them each in turn.

"Yes, Emmett?" I acknowledged his gentle waiting hand.

"Um, in the song, they call it a 'tree' - or, I mean, in the story at church. And, um, also . . . Not now, but on the next page, I mean the next chapter it's coming, they're going to put Him in the Tomb."

"That's right, Emmett. What did you need Micaiah?"

"Um, I think we should go Me, Emmett and Joseph to pray for breakfast, lunch and dinner." That's right, before the story started, the kids had been arguing over who would pray for the meal, just as always.

"Micaiah, it is up to Mommy and Daddy to decide who will pray and when. You will not make a chart or set a schedule. We will decide for whatever reasons we choose."

She pouts and I turn to Joseph, still waiting with his arm up.

"Yes, Joseph?"

"Um, Jesus - monkeys like bananas!"

"Yes, yes they do."

Those are my children in a nutshell. Emmett, the sponge - always listening, soaking things in, making connections and asking questions. Micaiah, the planner - with a solution to every problem and a plan to make things right (what else from the girl who arrived on her due date - right on schedule). Joseph, well, Joseph.

Man, I love these kids.

06 October 2014

Of the Blissfulness of Ignorance

It has been over a half a year since a momma on the other side of this state last held her sweet boy in her arms. And though I call her family, I still feel on the outside of this grief looking in, borrowing something I feel I don't have the right to call mine. And I watch her grieve and I hurt for her and I pray for her. And this past week, as she continues through this unending journey, she wrote these words - the words I can understand deeply,

"I hate "Angela Before." I hate that she let Maverick slip through her fingers, and that she didn't absorb every bit of his 108 days. I hate what she did to my only memories of my son. She paid no attention to the details and now those memories are foggy. I hate her, and I am jealous of what she had, and what she took for granted.
I don't miss her. But I do miss what she had. I, the new me, "Angela Now", would have done so much better with Maverick's short life.
If only she could have known before the reality and the frailty of life that I know now."

And though I see where she is coming from, I feel a need to respond, from the other side. I don't know that my words will ease any amount of pain, but I have wrestled this lesson myself and thought maybe we could all use the reminder. He gives us only the knowledge we need, because we couldn't handle the rest. So, I wrote her a letter, which is really an open letter to us all . . .

Dear “Angela Now,"

You have been through more than any person deserves and I know I can’t even understand the depth of your pain because I am over here on this side, as an “Angela Before,” trying my best to learn the lessons your laid-open bare, bleeding heart has been vulnerable enough to share.

And I need you to know.

“Angela Before” was neither stupid nor na├»ve. She was unaware. But for a reason.

Because as much as the old adage tries to tell us it’s possible, we simply cannot live every day as though it were our last. Living our lives with that kind of intensity for an indeterminate amount of time will simply burn us out.

Yes, if “Angela Before” had known she only had three and a half months, she surely would have done things differently. That kind of intense focus on memorizing every detail of a too-short life could probably be sustained for, literally, a season.

But take it from this ”Angela Before” – the one trying so hard to live the lessons gleaned from “Angela Now” – it’s not possible without the knowing. The knowing of how long these precious lives will last. And the not knowing, yet constant anticipating can, and will, drive an “Angela Before” crazy. Not knowing whose life will end first – mine or theirs? Which one relationship in my life needs this kind of constant focus before the flame is snuffed too early? Or is it possible to soak in every moment of every one of these beautiful little lives before me? To commit every second to memory – memories I can cling to if they’re taken before I planned or thought?

And this “Angela Before” finds herself in a curled-up, fetal, crying mess on her bed feeling it’s not enough. The unknown time will never be enough to capture all of this. And can I live every moment to its fullest while still creating some semblance of a home and a life for myself and my children. And when I have burned myself out in attempting to soak it all in and not miss one moment – what does “Angela Before” do. Because taking a moment for herself means missing a moment of them. And what can be done?

So, take it easy on “Angela Before.” She had a lot to focus on. She had a budding toddler establishing herself in the new role of big sister, but also growing in her own right. She had a home to manage – because drawers run out of clothes quicker than we imagine. And she had a husband that needed her to notice him, too.

So she loved her little boy with all she had and she did a fantastic job with the limited resource of time she had.

She wasn’t stupid.

She didn’t know – and that’s not the same.

God was protecting her fragile heart while giving her time - not to hoard like a maniac knowing it will never be enough, but to slowly savor in the sweet bliss of ignorance.

Don’t hate her.

Love that she is the one who held your sweet boy in those precious midnight hours. She calmed his tears. She gave him his first kisses and his last. Appreciate the fact that she was able to enjoy his soft snuggles without worry for the future, but in the beauty of living in the present. Thank her for taking care of him the best she knew how. Give her a sweet hug and let her rest now. Her job is done. 
It’s your turn now, to carry on where she left off.

And God is more than able to carry both a messed-up crazy “Angela Before” and a worn out, grieving “Angela Now” as we navigate the unknowns of this continual journey.

With love and prayers,
Just another “Angela Before”