A Broken Hallelujah
"Given the 'normal' sins of marriage, the messiness and brokenness, as difficult and wearying as it can be, we must remember that the vows exist for precisely such circumstances. You really don't need to make a vow to stick with someone in the best of times. The inclination to run doesn't exist then. It's the low times the covenant is made for.
" (The Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler page 206)
Recently I was on FB, when this came across my feed...God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.
Some random stranger had posted that as his status. A mutual friend commented on it and thus it made its way through my newsfeed.
Another random stranger commented, "cancer in a child?"
And I had to answer.Yes. God is good, all the time. God is faithful. God is gracious. Even when my child has cancer.
I might say it through my tears, but I still believe it with all my heart.
What if we changed that even to especially
God is good, especially when my child has cancer. God is faithful especially when my mom's body is shutting down from ALS. God is gracious especially when my sister in law dies in a car accident, leaving a husband and three young children.
God's character is not something He takes on and off like a jacket. He is much different from us humans in this way.
God is holy (Psalm 99:9). Which encompasses much more than being without sin.
Holy is also the idea of whole, healthy, entire. God isn't kind and good one minute, and not kind and good the next minute.
The Bible says God is love (1 John 4:8). God is light (1 John 1:5). God is peace (Isaiah 9:6). God is good (Mark 10:18). God is gracious and compassionate (2 Chronicles 30:9). God is righteous (Daniel 9:14). God is merciful (Daniel 9:9). God is true (John 3:33). God is just (2 Thessalonians 1:6).
This is more than the idea of practicing these things. These things are who He is. He is the epitome, definition and manifestation of these things.
If that is true, if God's character does not change, then each attribute and characteristic is evident in each of His acts. Creation, redemption, judgement.
I don't think cancer was created by God. I do think it is allowed by God. It is a result of the fall. Universal sin. Which is why I can still see His gracious hand, kindness and goodness in these circumstances.
As a matter of fact, when we are just strolling along, and life is good, we tend to get forgetful of all the benefits and blessings that we receive from the hand of God. We aren't actively ungrateful, we are just apathetic and unaware.
But, as we paddle through deep waters, struggling to keep our heads above the flood, we feel God's gracious, sustaining, powerful right hand upholding us. He is there.The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design, thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
Sometimes we feel His presence. Sometimes we see His grace and goodness in the trials.
Sometimes we can't. But, that doesn't mean that He isn't.
It is an act of faith to just keep trusting, relying on His unchanging character and person. His unfailing goodness and mercies that are new every morning.
Sometimes that act of faith is an act of complete and utter desperation.
It makes me think of the vows quote that I placed first in this post. Vows are precisely for the bad times. We don't need vows to make us stay during the good times. Vows remind us to stick it out when things are rough.
God's goodness all the time, but we rely
on His goodness especially
during the hard things...like cancer, death, loss, grief, war, strife, divorce.
I don't say this theoretically. I've lived it-especially this past year.
I still don't have a clue why my daughter lost her eye to cancer. I don't know why my upright living mom has ALS. I don't know what God is doing in these things, beyond changing me/us into the image of Christ and bringing glory to Himself.
This is a hard concept. Which is why I say it through my tears. The Holy Spirit has used Scripture to comfort me through all of this, but it was not via hearing it from others. It was as I read the Psalms, and other passages, for myself. Hearing scripture from others felt awfully like a battering ram.
Furthermore, I sat in church, and couldn't sing for several months. I'm a music girl, and I couldn't choke out the words. I just cried.
I don't know the why.
But, I do know that God is good, all the time.And from that flows my broken hallelujah.
On Transplanting, Cancer Anniversaries and Healing
So, on the 4th of July I did my semi-annual garden weeding. This year I had co-oped the first weeding to the offspring, but I bit the bullet, and did the second (and final) weeding myself. Because ain't nobody got time for more weeding than that.
I had gotten a steal of a deal on the seedlings in the spring. Eight plants for $1.50. Which made for 16 plants at $3.00. Which made for a seriously crowded tomato patch. I think I planted 12 plants (it KILLED me to let the other four just die), which was still about four too many for my space. The plants were slowly growing, but were definitely not flourishing.
Long story short(er)...I pulled out 2 plants (and threw them away!!!), and then moved 3 plants over.
Those three plants immediately wilted.
I was really careful moving them. I kept the roots intact, and even tried to keep dirt on the roots. I buried the plants securely, and then watered. But those babies looked sick.
Very wilty. Droopy leaves. Limp limbs. Barely surviving.
Over the next few days I watered them religiously. I spoke sweet nothings in their ears. I encouraged them to take root again and grow. They'd barely perk up.
But finally they turned the corner this weekend.
They are still not as robust as they were before I messed with them, but they are looking much better. Not as much on death's door.
Of course this makes me think of life.
We each go through tremendous trials. Trials that batter and shape and mark us forever.
In the urgency of the trial, people pray for us, and cry with us, and rejoice with us.
But then, life moves on. People aren't praying as much anymore. People think the situation is over and done with. Sometimes it feels like people are tired of hearing about cancer, or loss, or death, or divorce, or miscarriage, or _____.
The situation seems hopeful or healed (or at least, should be
) to the outside observer, while the sufferer is still dealing with the ramifications of the journey.
Like the tomato plants.
I mean...they have roots, good soil, water, miracle grow, sunshine and rain. Sure, they were transplanted. But, really? Get over it and get flourishing
But, what we can forget is that transplanting is a drastic measure. The bigger the plant, the more drastic it is. You practically bring the plant to the point of death in the hopes that it will bear more fruit.
So, even with fastidious tending, it takes a long time for the plant to recover.
Today, July 11, 2017, marks the one year anniversary since Meredith's eye enucleation. And she is doing marvelously. She is getting hardier, and healthier, with each passing day.
Our family is doing well. Our outlook is really good.
Sometimes I wonder if I will ever reach a point when cancer isn't my point of reference.
Sometimes I wonder if I will be able to type a blog post again without crying.
Sometimes I wonder if people are sick and tired of hearing about how this impacted us. If they are thinking...just get over it already
Sometimes the FB memories just take and bite me in the butt.
I know that God is good and faithful all the time. And I am thankful that He brought us through this hell. But, I still have no idea what His plan in the whole thing is.
I feel like the tomato plant...perfect growing conditions, but not quite recovered yet. So even though theoretically we should be robust and flourishing, we are still a bit wilty and droopy.
I try to allow myself the tears as needed, and I lean into healing practices.
We all willingly quote and cling to Romans 8:28-29. All things work together for good. All things for God's glory. All things to conform us to the image of Christ
People ARE being changed. We need to realize that this is often a radical conforming process. It is excruciating. It takes time to process the ways we've been changed. The actual change and the conduit of the change.
Even though someone may seem healed on the surface, they often deal with the scars and stretch marks for years. Time passes and does heal, but there is not formulaic time period that heals all ills for all people.
Thus we need to listen, and weep, to lean in, and be leaned upon. Whenever and wherever. For however long it takes for that healing to be complete. For the person to become vibrant, robust, strong and flourishing again.Like my tomato plants.
It's the End of the World as We Know It
Last week I got rid of my landline.
It's not like we ever used it. As a matter of fact, on my last bill, we'd only used 17 minutes of call time. That's way less than a minute per day.
Obviously we are not big phone talkers around here...
The phone mostly rang for robo calls. One or two calls in 30 would be someone I needed to talk to.
Though it is astonishing to me, that my instinctive action when I come home after being gone any length of time, is to check the caller i.d. to see what calls we've missed. I've caught myself several times this week, walking to the phone, that is no longer there, to check the caller i.d.. Not to make phone calls.Sigh.
It was time for it to go.
We've replaced that phone with a basic flip phone for the kids when they are out and about, or when I am. This way I can get ahold of them, and vice-versa.
I'm 38, and I now have to learn a new phone number.Sigh.
It's the end of an era, that's for sure.
I remember way back when phones had rotary dials. And cords. Attaching the receiver to the base. I remember my mom having the super long stretchy cord (like 20', or something crazy like that), so that you could duck into the bathroom, or some other place for quiet and privacy when talking on the phone.
Party lines? Who needs party lines? We were all in the same room, hearing half the conversation.
And if that wasn't enough, you could stealthily lift the phone off the receiver in another room, very slowly and carefully releasing the hang up button. And if you were really quiet, you could ease drop in on a whole lot of conversation before you were caught. Not that I ever did that to any of my siblings or anything....Just speaking theoretically, of course.
I remember when we first got a cordless phone. Oh the freedom! Oh the privacy! Oh the efficiency!
Talking on the phone was no longer a passive endeavor. You could paint your nails, or wash the dishes, or weed the garden, or scrub the floors...all while talking to your BFF.
Speaking of the BFF...I still have her childhood phone number memorized. And that knowledge comes in handy when calling her parents. Which I do, every once in a while.
Kids these days...they will never know what it is to have an index of phone numbers not at their fingertips, but impressed indelibly into their brain.
Who needs to memorize phone numbers anymore? Just click on the contacts list on your mobile phone, and there's the required number. I may be able to rattle the BFF's childhood phone number off just.like.that. but I have to think half a second to remember her current number. Which she has had for years and years and years already.Sigh.
I remember the phone calls to my BFF and her siblings. From myself and my siblings. The five of us would call the four of them, and talk through the ranks for hours and hours.
Those were the days.
That's how friendships used to be built.
"It's my turn! Get off the phone! Mo-om!"
Oh the nostalgia!Sigh.Do you still have a landline? Or have you completely converted to mobile phones?
Wow! I can't believe it has been over a month since I've written in this space. There are so many different factors as to why that is...
We finished school on May 19. It was a good hard push for the last three weeks. Textbooks and reading books to finish, reports to write, things to dissect, Spanish to wrap up. All in all, I am very pleased with what we accomplished this year. BMV finished his freshman year of high school. Freckles successfully embarked on middle school, and finished seventh grade. LC did just grand in fourth grade. And Meres learned to read. We learned so much about Ancient Rome, and biology, and how to look at and understand art. Despite everything else, it was an amazing school year.
My parents spent May here in the Mitten. I tried to see them several times because time with them is limited. And time with mom definitely has an (unknown) expiration. Mom's ALS is progressing steadily. I am thankful for each visit we have together.
We left the morning of May 20, for Texas, for 9 days. It was so good to see all my siblings who live down in that area. Plus I got to snuggle my new niece for hours. I loved that. She is at the wonderful age where she is starting to interact, and she smiles. She is beautiful. We had a very relaxing time. We stayed with one of my sisters and her family. My kids loved hanging out with their TX cousins.
Meres had a slew of appointments in May. Yearly physical, 3 month MRI and oncology, 2 month eye doctor. Everything was clear and cancer free. Whew! So thankful for another set of check ups with that news. She did her MRI without sedation, which is quite remarkable. Her MRI lasts for about an hour-an hour that she must remain completely still. She had movie goggles on, and she did the MRI like a champ. This will make future MRIs much smoother. She will show up, and get an IV started, but then, when it is done, we can walk right out of there. So convenient. Her oncologist was very pleased with her blood count numbers, and her color. She said she looks healthy. Despite all she has been through this year, she has grown at least 4". She is a happy, (relatively) healthy kid.
Yeah, about that relatively
...so this past Monday, Meredith's prosthetic eye got super gunky. Lot so yellow discharge. And then she complained of her throat hurting. I took her to Urgent Care, and she probably has strep, and a sinus infection. And then we went to the eye doctor, and he diagnosed her with conjunctivitis. Who knew you could have "pink eye" without an eye. It is bacterial, not viral, and so she is on antibiotic eye drops, and steroid eye drops, on top of the antibiotic she is taking for the strep. Hopefully this will nip all that in the bud, and she will start being able to fight off these crazy things. Also, the pharmacists at our local pharmacy should know me by name soon, I'm in there so often.
It's summer vacation, so I am in summer mode. Pretty much my year is divided into two parts-school and summer. School is very scheduled and regimented. Everything fits into its time slot.
Summer is very easy-breezy. I embrace the sunshine and rejoice in the lack of schedule. I feel like I am my best self in the summer. I intentionally relax, recovering from the school year, rejuvenating, and recharging for another school year.
We've had perfect weather the past week or two. Sunshine every day. Temps mostly in the 70s. Nice breezes blowing. Perfect. Idyllic.
What I love most about summer is the mornings. Coffee, devotions, and then long bike rides. The bike rides were what I missed most about my summer last year. I roll my bike out between 7 and 7:30, several mornings a week, and hit the trails while the sun is slowly sneaking up. There is only a handful of people on the trails that early. It is so quiet. I spend a lot of time thinking and praying and singing in my brain
. I usually seem some form of wildlife. On Tuesday I saw a deer, two turtles, and lots of little critters.
My summer days are quite carefree. Probably too carefree. Bread? Who makes bread in the summer? Cleaning? Who cleans in the summer?
Well, I did make myself clean the bathroom on Monday. The tub had reached critical mass. I scrubbed the bathroom and vacuumed and dusted my bedroom, and everything looks and smells better.
I'm gearing up for the young ladies' discipleship program that I'm involved in each summer. I've done a ton of planning and organizing, contacting speakers and fitting things together. I have studying to do, and some supplies to purchase, but most of that will wait until next week.
I've been reading a ton. In the sunshine and shade. I read 11-22-63 by Stephen King. This is a doorstop sized book, but it was a great read. It is not a HORROR novel. I don't read that genre. It took me a while to plow through, and it was definitely worth it. I signed the offspring up for the summer reading program. So we are all reading a lot, and that makes me happy.
I feel healthy. My "biker's" tan is getting quite well rounded. Including the pal strap lines. I'm drinking lots of water, and eating good food. My food mantra is make good choices.
So much hummus and fresh veggies. Big salads. Fruit. I love summer eating!
I bought a new laptop, on which I am composing this post. It is a MacBook Air, and it has been great. BMV inherited (for a sum) my older laptop. He's happy, I'm happy.
I got my herbs planted, and a few tomato plants. I also weeded my front perennial bed, and it is thriving. The climbing roses are blooming, and the day lilies have tiny pods. The cherries are thinking about turning red. It is glorious!
Anyway, so many little things that are building up to fill my months. I am incredibly blessed.How's your summer going?
This Is My Fight Song
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me
One of our family's favorite music groups right now is the Piano Guys. We love how they combine new and old songs, inventing new moves and techniques on the piano and cello. They really are awesome.
Their newest album, Uncharted, came out last fall. It has become our minivan sound track. The songs are very stirring. Our favorite of the favorites is Track 1.
Amazing Grace-Fight Song.
It's the piano. And drums. And bagpipes. And the cello. Plus some good, hearty Oomphs! by kilted Scotsmen.
Here's my confession...I had no idea that Fight Song was a song. I mean, obviously it was a song. I didn't know it was a thing. But my kids did. I think they heard it at their cousins' house?
There was the morning in January that Meres and I were driving to the hospital for her last chemo treatment. The player rotated the disks to Uncharted. Fight Song-Amazing Grace started playing. And Meres belted out the first few lines.
Being the only lines of the song she knows...
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
-oh yeah (a Meres' improvisation)
It seemed so fitting to hear her sing those words on her way to chemo. She hasn't let cancer get her down. Not for half a minute. Not her barfing or her prosthetic eye or her hair loss or the really long chemo days or the unending pokes.
I'm proud of her indomitable spirit.
Of course, being a hormonal mother, I also cried in the front seat that morning.
Not from Fight Song, and her robust little girl voice piping the lyrics. But as the Amazing Grace harmonies played, and it's lyrics wound through my head. Not the first verse, but the (traditionally) third...
Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come.
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
It was a promise and reminder that spoke to my heart that morning. We have been through so much this year. But, by God's grace, we have safely come through these dangers, toils and snares. And, what a mercy to know that God's grace will continue to lead us-step by step, year by year, trial by trial-safely home!
It's May. Four months later. We still listen to this soundtrack almost every time we are in the car. And I oomph with the Fight Song, and praise God with the chords of Amazing Grace. We are still fighting. We've still got a lot of fight left in us. We are alright. (maybe barely, some days, but nevertheless, alright.)
The pairing of these two songs is absolutely genius. It the glorious combo of not giving up because God's grace is empowering each step. For me, forever and ever, amen, this Piano Guys' arrangement will always be associated with Meres' cancer, and the way that cancer changed our family.
It has become our fight song.
The grace of God.