One Weird Thing about Suffering

There are things we will miss

One day I will miss the shoes on the floor, the tiny pair, a miniature version of his father’s shoes. There are piles of clothes around the house as I attempt the annual sorting of four outgrown children’s clothes, discerning what to donate, what to save, and what to quickly pass on to the next child.

One day we will miss this. The baby pulls herself to her feet and takes the first sideway steps. The almost-five year old reads his numbers, letters and colors. He reads a book, having memorized the words, thrilled that he knows exactly what I am pointing to, though he cannot actually read at all.

The eldest learns to wash her face with a bar of Dove soap because I want to save her from the expensive indulgences I have become accustomed to at the Macy’s Clinique counter. We tease the first-born son about an arranged marriage.

One day we will miss this.

Photo by Dick Saunders on Unsplash

I sat up with a baby from two to four last night. In the afternoon, as I grew just sleepy enough to fall asleep, while the two youngest napped, I heard a cry from across the house. I had to get up again.

But when we read a picture book together, the rest melts away. When we watch a Youtube video of a song titled “Christopher Columbo” from a Bing Crosby black-and-white flick, the rest fades away. When we gather around the table and hear what mispronunciations the eldest has to share from her science textbook and we catch the verbal errors of all those around the table, we laugh and forget the chores of today.

How many secret moments have the shutdown offered us that we otherwise might have missed? My focus turned inward as my husband sought to maximize the work he could to at home, having been told to work from home. So we cope, we watch movies, and we find new ways to laugh, not in an extraordinary way, but in a way that magnifies the actual life we are living, the life we are meant to find.

That is the key to suffering.

It is not about the hardness of suffering, but the way suffering strips away all the unnecessities, as this crisis did both by the illness itself and the results of the shutdown. It stripped away all the superfluous brass and buckles and brought back sensible dresses with loose waste lines. We were no longer performing, showing off for the public. We were living.

The shoes were left on the floor, neatly arranged, left and right. I hear him and his dad laugh to jazz Christmas music by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. The other children help clean the home while I rest, the end of the day wearing on my reserves.

This is the invitation.

We will miss this when it’s gone. Because suffering, in editing, actually brings into full color the best of things. I saw the streets of San Francisco on walks while my son lay lethargic in the hospital bed. I saw the sweet pea shoots as my daughter lay in the cemetery. I saw the promise of a growing education while our financial future lay uncertain. But bigger than all that, I saw my family.

There is no end to opportunity once the superfluous is wiped away. Will we see it or will we fight against the grain, the deprivation of whatever we are missing, or the hardship it presents? The adventure is only in the thing we embrace. The adventure is only in the life well-lived.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

Lessons in War & Peace: the miniseries review

 

A little late, I know…

 

Television has been a problem for me lately. Not that I watch too much, but that I cannot decide what to watch. It may be the number of great works I read, but the moment a character or a scene lets me down with its flatness, its lifelessness, its crudeness, my interest dissipates.

Someone recommended, War & Peace (2015) starring Lily James (aka Cinderella, aka from Downtown Abbey). The book, by Leo Tolstoy, is a whopping 1300 pages of classic Russian literature, a triumph for the most ambitious of readers.

I cannot speak to the faithfulness to the original, but this miniseries amazed me. Like all these period dramas coming out, it presents beautiful costumes, beautiful scenery, beautiful leads, etc. Better than all the rest I have seen lately it possesses multi-layered sweeping landscapes, a process for sharing the interior disposition of the character, growth, change, the descent into vice, the struggle into virtue, remorse, hate and forgiveness acted on the stage with startling depth.

 

Paul Dano, James Norton, and Lily James in War & Peace (2016)

 

As I watched the penultimate episode, I considered the title and its themes. “War & Peace” is set in Russia beginning in 1805 with Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Two more wars follow, but the war that really matters to the story is during the supposed peace, the armistice, between Russia and France in which all the characters fall.

We track these movements of the characters and their search for the possibility of happiness, despair in the sight of losing it and the final revelation of its realness, its existence, because of love.

It is during the final war of the drama, in 1812 when Moscow burns and thousands die to slow Napoleon’s march, that the characters find peace in themselves and with others. It is in the face of fear of certain death that the characters begin to seek forgiveness.

Dubbed Post-traumatic Growth, researchers and therapists sought to define this phenomenon of the sense of goodness, peace, fulfillment and even joy that occurs after terrible tragedy. This ancient theme seen throughout literature, myth, and religion is only recently given space in modern psychological research through the realm of positive psychology. It occurs in five general areas: new opportunities that would not otherwise exist, closer relationships or increased connection with those who have suffered, an increased sense of personal strength, greater appreciation for life in general, and a deepening or evolution in one’s spiritual life.

Those who have not suffered greatly might be tempted to say to those who have, “I can’t imagine how you did that” or “I couldn’t get through it like you” or ask “how did you manage?”

When people appear to come out the other side of suffering, it is very likely because they found meaning in it in one of these five dimensions. They found a motivation making it worth enduring, rather than giving up in despair, numbing through self-medication or hardening their hearts.

War can be an external and an internal affair. The external are matters of state fought by soldiers on the ground. The internal is self against self, a new self fighting to free oneself from the old habits, a search for happiness, a search for love.

The external trials can become a vehicle for resolving the battle within to find peace. Fr. Jacques Philippe explains peace, without trial, when untested, is fragile and fails easily. But when tried in the fire, it strengthens. The peaceful person is the one we see who can maintain peace even as life’s circumstances change.

The person trying to imagine suffering or simply saying they cannot without trying, may be looking at from the perspective of his or her present abilities. As one moves through the trial, those abilities widen, deepen and grow roots. What one survives at the end is not what one could have survived at the beginning. Those heroes of suffering did not begin as heroes. They became heroes in their perseverance, in their willingness to see what the moment has for them and their choice to open their heart to receive it.

 

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

Stories of Hope: A Conversation with the Rykert Trio

 

I think back often to this interview, so even though it first came out in May, I’d like to share it with you now. All around us, there are individuals transcending their suffering to build up their community.

 

What will you do.png

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch

It had not occurred to Joe Rykert to sing with his family as a group. Now The Rykert Trio, which includes him, his daughter, Noelle Rykert-LaRosa and son, Joseph Paul Rykert have released their second album, titled “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” a contemporary take on Southern Gospel.

Along with work as a photographer, Joe Rykert sang solo for forty years. He performed in musical theatre and opera with Townsend Opera Players for over twenty years. His children, all vocalists, sang on their own path in other venues.

Everything changed, two weeks before Easter 2015, when Rykert received a diagnosis: Stage 4, Large B-cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Devastated by the news, a commitment to sing at a Sunrise Service at Lakewood Memorial on Easter morning kept Joe grounded. With his first chemo treatment scheduled three days before that service, he asked his children to back him up should his body react to the five toxic drugs to be used in his chemotherapy.

On Easter morning, the five Rykerts stood on stage and a new path for their lives began. “So out of something very dark—cancer, came one of the greatest blessings in my adult life, getting to sing and share the stage with them. And they are blossoming and growing in greatness and I’m a fading rose. It’s just, God had to get my attention, he had to show me what I was missing. That was the opportunity,” Rykert shared.

Unbeknownst to them, Tammy Rykert, Joe’s wife, entered Joe, Noelle and Joseph, into the Valley Talent Project. In August 2016, the Rykert Trio walked away first in the sing-off, Audience Favorite and Judge’s Favorite. “It was a grand slam,” Joseph said. On the same weekend, the Trio performed at the Celebration of Hope, a cancer awareness fundraiser event put on by Sutter Gould.

The calls for bookings began. Hope grew out of darkness. The Rykert Trio dove in. Individual projects continued, and Tammy continued to look for avenues to move the Trio forward. They produced their first album in Turlock using monies raised during a concert at Geneva Presbyterian. Joe described the turnout and amount raised as an affirmation, “we’re on the right path. That’s God’s stamp of approval.”

 

28 (1).jpg

 

While they sang mostly secular, classical and jazz tunes, at the Southern Gospel Convention, the Trio discovered their new sound. Musical groups they met from all over the nation encouraged them on.

Why Southern Gospel? Joe answered, “It’s the subject matter, it’s all about the blood, it’s about the cross, it’s about what Christ did for us. His sacrifice that we are not worthy of.” With tears, he recounted his gratitude to God. Indeed, the family sees their growing success as a ministry in itself.

Tammy explained, “so many have been touched by cancer and just the encouragement of what he’s been through and what he has overcome. He’s in remission. He’s never going to be without cancer but at least he’s in remission. Especially people who are going through it, they see the story and there’s hope. And hope for the afterlife. If they don’t make it through. There is that hope and future in Christ.”

Joseph added, “The Lord’s always faithful. It seems like the ladder is endless for us. We’re just going to keep climbing as long as we honor him. Now, that we’ve found music that does honor to his name, it’s only going to get better.”

 

IMG_4877.jpg

 

You can find music by The Rykert Trio on all the major streaming platforms and for purchase on their website and Amazon. To book the Trio, visit their website http://www.therykerttrio.com or email therykerttrio@gmail.com or go to the website. For regular updates, like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram.

 

Discloser of Material Connection: I am a freelance writer for the Hughson Chronicle. As such, this is a “sponsored post,” reprinted with permission. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Where is my help to come from?

From Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains; where is my help to come from?

The LORD will guard you from all evil;
he will guard your life.
The LORD will guard your coming and your going,
both now and forever.

You must keep to what you have been taught and know to be true (2 Tim 3:14)

We returned Saturday. I cannot write when I am home…too busy living.

God protects us. We know him to be love, to be good, to be faithful.

Instead of asking “God why are you doing this?” I can take out the question, and in the running dialogue, replace it with “We don’t know why this is happening.”

As a reminder that we cannot always find the reason why we experience the suffering we do. Why do I have three perfectly healthy children, and then Peter, who will have many many problems with his health as his electrolytes become easily unbalanced? We do not know.

Why the timing of all these things?

Why did my husband break his foot?

It there some cosmic book written, dictating these things, “it was meant to be” or is it chance, the chaos of a fallen world? Did he really just step off the ladder wrong?

We cannot know. We know God permits things to happen. We know God works all things for good for those who love him. We know God is love.

I knew I could marry my husband because I could see in his love for me the way God loved me. Now I find I am learning how to love God through crisis by my love for my husband. When we fight, the thing that always cools the heat is the reminder that we are on the same side. It is not me against my husband.

So it is with God. God wants good things for us. He just knows more about how to bring it about.

If I start there, then I can begin to see all the incredible ways God is helping us. The confluence of events that actually work to make things easier, not harder. The passes for the Academy of Sciences at Family House, the occurrence of the 6-year old’s birthday on a Monday when my husband does not work, the assignment of the nurse I am most open with to take care of Peter, the ache of the night nurse who loves Peter when something bad happened, the amazing coffee machine someone surprised us that makes me feel so fine, the ease I feel driving in the city when I must drive because my husband’s foot is broken, and the list goes on and on and on.

At a different time I would have heard these readings with bitterness towards God. It would be the great, “yeah, right” that echoes in the heart of so many grieving and suffering when they hear of God’s goodness. I feel I have rediscovered the God of my youth, the God I knew and stayed devoted to but felt far from during these years of marriage.

I do not know what Thursday will bring, or the month or next year or life. I just know Boston will be a good place to vacation because there are experts there on TPN in case anything happens to Peter during a vacation. I look out my window and see St. Ignatius Church on the horizon, across the city, and I feel hope. It was my pilgrimage site during young adulthood, and the little Carmelite convent across from it.

I am not without fear. I’m terribly afraid. But I am still standing. I might crumble inside in a few days. but for now I am standing. We can keep moving forward.

Evening Reflection: at home

And we did go home. We nearly did. We nearly stayed one more night. One more night was nothing to them, but to me, it was everything.

And here we are. We came home Thursday and it has been a whirlwind ever since. How strange the pace of home from the pace of hospital. It is quiet and methodical in the hospital, strict practice so where we put the diaper after and how to order dinner. I call into a schedule because it gives a predictable course to the day. It makes it feel like a day, rather than an endless series of nothing.

And how the reflection and the mood changes. From loneliness and keeping depression at bay, to impatience and anxiety. In San Francisco I carefully watched my son’s health and communicated to the team. Here, we are the team. My communication is no longer business but personal and I must re-learn how to speak to my spouse and my children. We have to learn how to live together again.

I gather information. I have not been here. I do know the current practices or current reactions. My job was ever to notice the patterns in behavior, report and give my professional motherly opinion on the best course of action.

It feels a little more like drowning, in the chaotic movie sort of way. Not the way drowning actually looks. No, that is how San Francisco feels, when your head just bobs below the water and above the water. Here it’s a panic and a fret and a frenzy. There is just quietly happens and the only way we notice is because I have to keep going and then I start crying. Here I just explode. Here i feel the anger. Here I ask, why God?

An injury in the family, a health concern for myself and then he will not eat orally. When will it ever end?

My two-year old is taking in life with mother. We have to build back our relationship. My four-year old is overly sensitive. My six-year old is desperate for alone time with me, and my approval. My body demands rest. My life demands activity.

Where is quiet and prayer and self-care? I know so well how to take care of myself in San Francisco where there is nothing to think about other than how to take care of myself. Prayer, exercise, writing, art and friendship. These are the powerful tools that keep me going (sprinkled with some shopping).

Prayer. I cannot even imagine. My mind flits from thing to thing here at home. It is so difficult to find the interior quiet. I could go to the adoration chapel. I could bike to the adoration chapel and kill two birds with one stone. But I am so tired. And it is so hard to leave the house unless it is absolutely necessary and I already have to leave for so many things.

Exercise. The tiredness, oh the tiredness. If I could only get on top of that, then maybe I would exercise.

Writing. Here I am. Bully for me.

Art. My home is my canvas. Here it is easier to create than there.

Friendship. We just need to make the plans to make it happen. It can happen here. Because they are here and I am here and that overcomes two obstacles.

Will I just run in circles or actually grow this time?

Time will tell. Let it unfold. The house, interior house, need not get clean in one day. We can go just a room at a time. For now, let us work on the family and living together again. And see some friends. Yes, I much desire to see some friends.

Reaching out to Hope

Each time this night comes, I take the long walk back to Family House and ponder in my mind, “is it real?” It hardly seems possible that the day I have waited for will come tomorrow. Preparations have been made, prescriptions and supplies ordered. We have learned to have things shipped to our house rather than the hospital so we can leave. There are the words. We are leaving.

Can it be? I am afraid to hope. I prepare myself that something may happen over night to prevent our leaving. It is always a planned discharge, never a for sure discharge.

But there is it. It will gradually soak in. Maybe more slowly this time because he must stay hydrated tonight and not vomit, or at least, not vomit too much. He is still a baby. Plans have been made to protect him: increase the TPN, give more breast milk with the formula.

Then there is the ethanol lock. A little alcohol at the end of his central catheter to help protect him from those things that find their way into his blood. Could this mean we do not come back for some time?

In the beginning, the likelihood of infection was not great…possible, but more likely to be a normal fever that all kids get. Yet my children have not been sick, not once all summer…only Peter.

Soon infections seemed very likely for him. This is his third. They mean two-week hospital stays. Coupled with other events, we have been here five weeks. Five weeks, that is the length of the “big hospitalization,” the one in the beginning. But that one was five weeks without interruption. Here we had six days at home…six perfect, too short days.

What will fall bring us? How many holidays will we spend here? Or will we turn a corner and have more time home than hospital? I counted the weeks. We have spent four months in the hospital. He is eight-months old. But one day it is going to change.

I reach out and consider grasping at the hope that lies before us. Yet it is a fearful hope. I must accept this as part of life. I can hope to be home. I can dream of being home an entire month. I can dream of being a family again. God, how I would love to be together again.

We were meant for each other. My husband and I need each other. We are the romantic-style marriage. It was written in the stars. I do not believe marriage must be destiny to be successful. Yet, I would be lying if I said I did not think God planned for us to be together since the beginning.

So we must be together…and detached. That is the lesson. Those were the welcoming words Fr. R and I spoke in the hallway of the PICU. “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). But not hate, I told Fr. R, you can love it…just be detached. He laughed heartily and granted me my point. He experiences his own desert away from home.

Detachment. The first spiritual book I ever read was Abandonment to Divine Providence. My early days were spent reading the Carmelites, Therese and her night of nothingness, John of the Cross and the Dark Night of the Soul. I understood little of it then. How could I? I had never suffered.

God protected St. Therese. She felt he protected some souls in a special way, bringing them up close to him, because they would not be strong enough to endure the path otherwise. I knew I was one of those souls. But we all must come to it eventually. We all must face the Cross. Then he makes us strong.

I have to explore what the Cross is and what hope is. I cannot fall into superstition: that if i pray in this way, he will not go back to the hospital. But it must be trust. It must be personal. It has to contain some notion of Heaven as our home. With a home and family so wonderful, I could love this world so much so I would not want to lose it. I remember thinking that when I held my oldest daughter.

We are on a journey. We must remember that. I am holding the thought. The excitement for tomorrow grows.

20160901_174651

A reading from the book of Lamentations

My soul is deprived of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; I tell myself my future is lost, all that I hoped for from the Lord.

The thought of my homeless poverty is wormwood and gall; Remembering it over and over leaves my soul downcast within me.

But I will call this to mind, as my reason to have hope: The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent;

They are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness. My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Good is the Lord to one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him; It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord.

The Cross

The Cross is our hope

Through the Cross we earn salvation

Salvation is a gift

Because of the Cross of Christ

We have to be come worthy of it

It is a free gift not a free ride

Suffering

All people suffer

A pilgrim verses a tourist

A pilgrim knows his destination

A tourist wanders and seeks pleasure along the way

The journey is the destination for the tourist

Not the pilgrim, there are delights, but they are inconsequential compared to the destination

If the delights on the journey do not delight the tourist, the trip was a failure

Not so the pilgrim

Today is the Exaltation of the Cross

How can I exalt the Cross? I feel a great emptiness around me, grasping for relationship. I am alone.

I was raised in the Church but not raised in suffering. So for me Paul says, “How could you be so stupid? After beginning in the spirit, are you now to end in the flesh? Have you had such remarkable experiences all to no purpose—if indeed they were to no purpose?”

We are in exile. I am without a home. I am estranged.

Why minimize the suffering? Let us just say it for what it is.

When I was so young, God worked amazing things in my heart. He brought amazing people into my life. He delighted me with his love.

Now, I am not even old. I am still young, and I shutter to think that I have so many more decades to live. I hope they will not be like this past year.

But he did not draw me out for nothing. He did not woo my heart for nothing. Would I have union with God apart from suffering? In all that consolation, it felt like it. And then I married. And my spouse was my consolation. And my children were my consolation.

Sunday I saw the beauty of my life and my home and my children and my capability. Monday I saw the beauty of my marriage and delighted in my spouse. I saw why I married him. I did not need to write because I did not need courage. Tuesday I saw the delight of the little things and saw past small disappointments. Tuesday afternoon, the disappointments began to grow and it felt heavier on my back. Tuesday evening, I knew something was wrong. “It will never end,” I say inside my heart. “When will it end?” I ask the Lord.

That is something in itself. I pray the traffic will clear. I pray it will end. I pray for the future. There is something much much deeper in my prayers than ever before.

I try to make sense of this and try to find some courage. And our Lady at the Cross is there. Seven years ago this night I miscarried. It was 3am. Since then it has always felt this feast day was for me. I finally have the current volume of the Breviary with me and went online to see the week in Ordinary Time. And there were the readings for the day: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Christ showed us the way.

I do not understand it. I will keep trying.

I laughed last night…heartily and with a friend. God does give consolations. What more can I say? I must not run from contemplating the cross.

Raw edges

Every day, these days, I wake up in a place that is not mine with people above me, below me and to the sides, use a kitchen that is that mine, shared with several other families, then walk out a door with a front desk, down a public street and into a large hospital. I greet people I saw every day for one week and then see only sporadically. I see nurses to whom I connected emotionally during difficult times. I am cordial when down, friendly and funny when up. I am an extrovert. I love conversations with residents and meeting some of the nerdier department doctors such as Infectious Disease and Immunology. I meet new people every day. The game is to remember their names for recall, guess where they come from when they walk in the door, and to learn a new medical words I cannot spell every day.

I am vulnerable with Dr. P and one nurse, in particular. I would like to be friends with two residents and two nurses I have seen over time. My relationship with P is an odd one, because she had all my trust and vulnerability in the early days with Peter. Now I just do not feel as vulnerable. It is a joy to see her, I guess, like a friend. She still has all my trust.

I have found, when family comes, I become very reactive. I snap easily. I drove home, partially in tears and in a rage at the traffic. It was clear most of the way, but boy of boy, when it was not…

I came home and in this bizarre rage straightened the house. Not in the tornado I some times experience when I feel overwhelmed at how much there is to do. It was with this strange anger. Am I angry at life? Am I angry I am not home to care for it myself? What is going on?

My mind began to clear after another hour. I lay in bed thinking irritably about whoever it is who is hand washing and leaving out their dishes to dry at Family House (the policy is to put all dishes in the dishwasher so they get sanitized, and to empty the dishwasher whenever it is full). I fantasized about putting out a note that read “You forgot your maid at home…put your dishes away” etc.

That I should lay in my beautiful bed in my beautiful home and think with ire about Family House…now I have meat for reflection. I got up, stretched and got a snack (cover my bases to cool my mood).

It is as if all my raw edges have been turned inside out.

Being free and comfortable with someone does not give one license to be a jerk. Yet, in all the turmoil, I have experienced a profound lack of freedom because I am constantly with strangers. On the stressful days of this past week I was so grateful to see AC in order to joke about Peter in our snarky way, something I only do with my husband and P. It is a special humor that understands the love you feel when you say mean things about an adorable baby because babies make life hard. Know its a joke when its hyperbole.

With family, I find myself filterless and out of practice with momentarily holding back a reaction. I am choleric and so when it comes, it comes fast and strong, and very unfortunately, biting. I once was, shall we say, not bad at holding my tongue and considering my response carefully and speaking with love. It catches me off guard. I act like a child. I fight. I rage.

I suspect it only wants some practice. And although I do not excuse a lack of charity, I think perhaps, it is a sign of something good and deep. My husband know a favorite movie image of mind is when the woman is hysterical with anger. The man who loves her puts his arms around her, restraining her in an embrace. She hits and fights to push him a way and he holds her closer. She succumbs to this love and begins to weep. While my husband does not literally hold me in my fits, it is an illustration of the dynamic. He waits for the tempest to pass. And then I succumb to tears. And he is there.

My husband and my mother are the only ones I have ever yelled at. I think I might be the only person my mom has fought with. This is because there is no one who knows me better, with whom I am more free, or who I love more.

I do not feel angry about life or our situation (at least not right now) but somehow I suspect, it is okay to get a little more than miffed, if only to let it breathe. I am just glad everyone else was asleep!

Morning Reflection: For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses…and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

“Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (Corinthians 12:8-10)

My high school youth minister told us, that as God is a Father, he knows his children very very well. My youth minister could put roast chicken and macaroni & cheese in front of his young son and know he will pick the chicken because he hates macaroni & cheese. Just because he knew this when he gave the option did not mean he chose for his son. So it is with God the Father.

In my house, we are very tricky parents. Perhaps I would prefer the kids not to have dessert. We frequently require them to finish particular parts of their meal (the protein) before eating the parts they love (the fruit). I could add an extra vegetable there and require them to eat the vegetable before they can have dessert. The eldest makes it through, as she fancies the taste of vegetables. The littler ones, with their sweet teeth, do not. I shape their actions.

So God knows us. So he knows me. Just when our finances get tight, friends make incredible offers of generosity. Maybe God inspired me to write or say the words that move them; maybe God used some external inspiration. Nevertheless, the timing is very helpful.

It is meant to be.

God made this good thing happen.

God so inspired and shaped the events precipitating the choice that here we are, with blessings we cannot fully comprehend.

So goes my life now, with the future veiled in mystery.

He says, “I can work wonders in you and it will draw others to me.”

I know a mother whose son has a genetic condition that greatly impacts her life. She radiates peace, and patience, and warmth, and compassion, and understanding. I think perhaps everyone who meets her stands in awe of her.

I know another mother whose son was born with a life-threatening condition; whose son underwent surgeries and difficulties; whose family underwent separation during his care. In her, I see boldness, courage and a tough trust in the Lord.

I see that I am different than before. There are worries in life that matter very little now. I feel this unspeakable strength. And yet, then there are those days, those dark days, those gone days, when I am reduced to ruin and helplessness. Mysteriously, we pick up again and keep going. And I feel increased gratitude, perspective, and compassion for myself for the times when I feel very, very weak. Gradually God reveals himself and enlightens my mind to the gravity of my son’s condition. If those chromosomes had come together any different, he would not have SPINT2, but he would also not be Peter.

“God meant for you to have this baby…God meant for you to have Peter,” Dr. P said to me.

If we are open to the challenges before us, and rather than cling to the life of security and comfort, throw ourselves into the will and wonder of God, he will do amazing things. He will work in us with his power in a way that feels so thrilling and incredible and painful. You would have to keep riding roller coasters without him to get such a thrill. That gets expensive. In the very smallest way, it is like how good it feels to trust a friend or a spouse, when you experience that moment of freedom and synchrony with the other person. Only this feels a little more like flying.

20160901_174651Other days it feels a little more like being dragged through the mud. Thus, I see the benefit of morning reflections: keeping perspective.

 

I am going home

I am going home. I, alone. Sadly, my infant son will stay. His father will come and they very much need the time without mom in the room distracting him. It has been too long since they lived together.

This morning I read “The spiritual practice of decorating a nursery,” and it strikes me. Yes, I remember the power of preparing the changing table baskets for Peter, unfolding the tiny onesies that my older son wore as an infant. They were awe-inspiring moments as they caused me to reflect, anticipate and pray for the baby who was to come. I do not remember heartache in those moments.

Yesterday, as I met with my counselor, we talked about imperfect perfect moments. I said the moments at home were perfect and then brought up how even in those days at home, those beautiful 5 days (the last was one of worry and the Emergency Department)…even in those beautiful five days, I worried. When I unpacked those onesies, I probably worried too.

When I arrive home, I apply my hand to our home. I gradually clean and organize. I am my husband’s motivation for doing his duty around the home, so there is a bit more that needs doing when I return. I do not mind, so long as there are no surprises!

And I redecorate. I either move furniture or paint a piece of furniture or hang a picture. I decide it will be autumn in August, and rightly so because now when I return it will be September. I have an unfinished project I want to finish this weekend. Just a final topcoat on a custom-mix painted dresser…in the nursery.

It is the nursery because there is a crib in there…because we do not allow the children to call it their own. That’s all. There is also an antique double bed that I love (Art Nouveau,so hard to find!). The older children take turns sleeping there based on what we think will make the “kids’ room” the quietest. The kids’ room is where I turn a blind eye. I ignore how messy it is. I have no expectations. I have made it almost entirely neutral with some references to sky and sea.

But the nursery…that is my playground. A coral wall, deep orange curtains with a modern white floral motif. Reclaimed wood painted coral cut and hung as arrows. The Scream. The antique bed. A light blue chalk painted desk fixed up from the side of the road. Loud, palm, Miami inspired bedding. It is not pale blues and pinks to reference the gender of our children. It is my space, the room where we do not allow toys, where I do not keep my husband’s taste in mind for decorating (yet, he likes it).

Every room we touch can be an act of love. I work to make this room and that room beautiful for my family to enjoy. I put my heart into my home. It is my art. And what a welcome we receive when going home.

I do not want to look back at yesterday. Yesterday was a bundle of anxiety and last night—a bundle of restless legs and my body rejecting the mattress and therefore little sleep. But tomorrow…tomorrow…I go home. Only for two nights, but does it matter? No, it does not!