Thursday, February 27, 2014

In Which I am Undone and Made New Again

I've always been infatuated with words, both in writing and reading.  Somewhere stacked in storage boxes are a zillion pages of my childhood journals.  And my parents, clever people, they would discipline me as a kid by taking my books away.  I thought I would die.
But somehow, poetry was never really part of this love affair with words.  I am not sure what exactly possessed me to launch Velvet Ashes' very first day with some of my own poetry/prose (See, I don't even know what to call it!).   I still can't believe I did that.  Because poetry is not a form of expression that I have any comfort or confidence in doing.  And honestly, it's also not a form of writing that I've sought to read very often either.
In the last few years, though, something has happened.
I have a budding new love for poetry.
I can point to three reasons for this:
1.  Writers I love and respect have shared how poetry has moved and shaped their lives.
2.  I've sought to expose my children to poetry, and in doing so have exposed myself to its beauty as well.
3.   My weekly time at The Grove.  Poets have been showing up and offering the gift of poetry in this space made for words, conversation and art.  And since I host it and respond, I read line by line through these poems, really reading them, pausing to savor and taste.  And week after week, I think: goodness gracious, that's gorgeous!  So simply profound.  
So this week at The Grove our prompt is "Poetry," and for those of us who are fresh-faced to writing our own poems, it's being suggested that we start with Psalm 23 as inspiration. 
 So here's my Psalm 23...

Jesus, You take care of me.

I have enough.

In You, I am enough.

You give me my favorite place
Here You refresh and renew.

You lead me in Your purposes for me.

You were with me.

Through Your people and Your Word, you comforted me.

Ultimately I have nothing to fear.

Whatever this broken world brings

You are my hope, my sure anchor.

Your presence fills me

And I am undone,

Made new again.

Your goodness and mercy go before and behind,

Every day of my life,

All over this world.

In you I am home

Now and always.


A humble stab at poetry, but gosh, I really, truly enjoyed doing it.  I may have just found myself a new way to pray.  What's your favorite way to pray?    

I'm Finally Ready to Talk About My Son's Disease

Aiden and I were leaving his check-up appointment this week.  We walked out of the hospital and turned down the sidewalk.  We looked up and saw a white man barreling towards us.  His hand clenched a phone to his ear, his eyes wide and frantic.  I’m quite sure he never saw us as he sprinted, full-on sprinted, towards the doors of the hospital.

We kept walking and suddenly I’m weeping. 

Because now I know.

Now I know what it feels like to have something very, very wrong with someone you love more than life itself.  You can imagine what it would feel like, but not until you’re trembling with the reality can you ever really know.

I wept because seeing that man’s wild eyes took me back to four weeks ago.

I’m sitting in a hospital waiting room in Northern Thailand.  My three-year-old boy is slouched and half-sleeping in my arms.  His fever has been raging for eight days now.  His body is splotched with rash, his tongue fuzzy and bumpy, his lips cracked and dry.  We’re waiting to see the fourth doctor of the week.*   

The room swarms with parents and sick children.  Nurses scurry to and fro.  Every bed in the hospital is full. 

I’ve waited long enough.  I’m done with these trips back and forth to the hospital, these medications tried and failed.  My boy is not better, only getting worse.  Mama bear takes over.  I march up to the counter, heaving him on my hip. 

“I need to go to the emergency room,” I tell all the white-capped nurses. 

This sends them scampering, searching for his chart.  I do not move. 

Soon I’m being escorted to see a doctor.   

Moments later, she’s telling me, “I think he may have Kawasaki disease.”

Kawa-what??”  The word “disease” exploding in my brain.

I don’t understand anything she’s saying.  I hear the words “serious,” “urgent” and “involves the heart.”

I choke against the fear rising in my throat.  I try to ask her questions.  She’s says I can look it up.  I ask her again, she says we’re doing blood work.  Talk to the specialist after the blood work.

Rapid texting to my husband: “Kawasaki disease– look it up.”

I’m back in the waiting room.  And there in that frozen moment, tears gushing down my face, I’m feeling all the pain of all the mothers all across the world with dying children in their arms.  I’ve imagined this feeling, every mother does.  But now I know.

Aiden raises his head up off my chest and looks at my wet face.  I pull him back to me and kiss him in his hair.  I whisper what I’ve been telling him for 8 long days now, “Mama’s going to take care of you.  You’re going to be ok.”

What if I can’t?  What if he won’t?

What if I can’t?  What if he won’t?

There are blurred and vivid memories from that day of eternity. 

We’re pinning him down, the IV going in.  He’s screaming, “Help me!”  He’s ferociously mad at the nurses.

We’re waiting for a room to open up.  I’m curled up on an examining table with him.  He’s quiet for a while.  Then he’s trying to rip his IV out.

Side affect of Kawasaki?  Extreme irritability. Yes, extreme irritability in a three-year-old.  I’ll spare you the details and let you imagine. 

Throughout the day we crash course ourselves in Kawasaki.  No one knows the cause of this rare disease.

Turns out my mama heart could have been spared with the words, “Treatable” and “With treatment, a very good chance of full recovery and no long term complications.”  My gut is still in knots, but slowly I begin to breathe.

By evening we’re pumping intravenous immunoglobulin from over a thousand people’s blood into my son.  There’s constant monitoring and medications, and finally, five days later, he is released from the hospital. 

This week was his follow-up heart-scan and blood work, and it showed that he is blessedly back to normal. 

Thank you, thank you Jesus.

And thank you to everyone who loved and prayed us through this time.  We will be ever, ever grateful for how you held us up.

My boy’s heart is back to normal.  I think my heart, however, is still recovering.  The fear I felt has made a mark, left a scar.  It has me weeping for people running wild-eyed into hospitals.  And it has me lingering in extra long snuggles with my babies, sneaking an extra peck on their cheeks, sighing content at the sound of their giggles.  Scars bear their own beauty, I think.  They link us tenderly to the pain of others, and they form a forever reminder to embrace each day as a gift.

Do you have a scar that's done this for you?

*Kawasaki disease is a very difficult disease to diagnose because symptoms show up in a gradual progression.  Once we got the diagnosis, we received excellent care, and we were grateful to be in very capable hands.    


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wait, Now Who Am I?

So I rolled The Grove's word prompt around in my mind this week.


And then I rolled it some more,


And then I felt…tired.

The word has such a “goal oriented” feeling to it, like it’s going to rattle off a bulleted to-do list. Now, Lord knows, I’m a list maker, an achiever of goals (or at least a believer in goals), but I have a hunch that the last thing that either you or I need right now is a to-do list.

I know I’m not preaching to a bunch of slouches here. I think we're a can-do kind of people. And so we do, and do, and do some more. And somewhere along the line my identity and perhaps yours becomes wrapped up, woven as one into what we DO.

Have you ever had a time in your life when what you DO is stripped away from you? You’re suddenly left floundering, asking, “Wait, now who am I?”

Yeah, been there.

There was that time I left everything I ever knew as a barely 18 year-old for the mountains of Ecuador. No longer the student leader.

Or the time I had to let go of teaching and that master’s degree. Gah, the classroom was my place!

And then all the days of sending my husband off to do the big important things, the things we used to do together, as I stay home to scrape dried jelly off the counter.

Yep, there have been tears for all of these. But go back and change it?

No, no I wouldn’t.

It’s been this stripping down and away that’s brought me to my knees, helped me find myself in Him. 

Read the rest over at Velvet Ashes...