Monday, August 30, 2010

goodbye, maybe

It was a first for many things. 

The first time I walked away from Carter with tears in my eyes, even though my absence would only be for four days. 

The first time I held a boarding pass with San Diego as its destination, and didn't feel the giddy excitement of returning 'home.'

The first time I had to brace myself for a Final Goodbye. 

My Grandma is in hospice, as of this past month. Her dementia has accelerated to the point of Alzheimer's; she has no appetite and is losing precious pounds from her already petite frame. We're told she's not uncomfortable.

Neal lost a former student to leukemia three weeks ago. I lost a loved one to AIDS while he had much life left to live. Grandma's decline, her slipping away from us, does not feel unfair like these other deaths. 

She's still happy. 

She's peaceful. 

She says "that's wonderful" every other minute. 

But she's leaving us...

Time has etched its mark in the deep creases of her face, in the transparency of her skin. Her eyes still burn blue, but their weariness permits them little light. Her wiry, coarse hair is as thick as ever, unkempt and glorious with silver declarations of age. 

She awoke for us and did her best to recognize her "beautiful visitors."

Her grasp was tight and she pulled me into herself, to press her cheek against mine. 

Like an infant, she mimicked the motion of a kiss, more precious than my own son's first attempts. 

She was humble. Grateful. Beautiful. 

All I wanted to do was crawl into bed with her, and lie down. 

Rest together. 



Be still. 


I didn't know how I'd do it. How I'd quietly leave her side, as if this were some average visit. As if weren't about to board a plane the next day, pass two more months in Florida, have a beautiful baby boy, and wait to hear from family if her last day had come. 

I didn't know how to say goodbye.

But she did. In her naive graciousness, she whispered my release. 

Could we be getting along now? 

She was tired. She is tired. A long life, well lived, will do that to the best of us.

When death and its finality edges closer to our present, when thoughts of forever overtake temporary concerns, we're reduced to the humble state of human once again. There's something inherently wrong about this set-up. We feel it in these moments. 

Somehow, with her character of grace and her humility of spirit, my grandma seems to transcend the evil of death. 

It could be the naivete her disease grants her. 

It could be her unshaken faith in Jesus.

It could be a combination of both, for which I'm desperately grateful. 

I didn't know how to say goodbye. Just like I don't know how to end this post. 

Maybe I won't this time...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

mis hermanas

 She is a reverend in Alabama
loving and teaching and challenging the members of her congregation to know Christ
She is a mother in Florida
whose journey of infertility has led her to straight to the bosom of God;
new life has been birthed in her soul and identity
She is a secretary in South Florida
with teenage sons and jobs and neighbors to
take care of, to serve well
She is a missionary in France
leads worship in an indie band to reach the forgotten youth of Aix en Provence

She is a nurse in Tampa

courageously living a new identity

her love is fierce
She is a pastor in Ocala
filled with wisdom and grace, tempered by years of service,
a fire that won’t waver
This is my fellowship
A motley crew of sojourners, each burning with purpose and value and life
They’ll probably never meet, much less join arms to labor
on this side of heaven
I gain strength
from each one;
A brief respite
from the loneliness acquired on this narrow road.

Monday, August 9, 2010

the day after

the day after

a sleepless night because the whirling helicopters filled my mind with worries

the day after

my worries were confirmed--the predator was in Karate Man's house, some doors down

the day after

a visit to the walk-in clinic, just to make sure Carter's newly acquired wound was okay

the day after

the Dr. sent us to the ER for x-rays, drugs and monitoring of the swelling

the day after

we leave the ER, passing a room with an infant who's just been resuscitated, his worried mom's eyes catch mine for a sad moment

the day after

we're told that everything's okay, prescriptions are filled, the pantry is stocked with applesauce the freezer with popsicles

the day after,

the PJ's stay on till noon, as does the TV

the Providence of God is praised

sighs of relief are had

emotions let down and try to settle

embraces and snuggles and too many squeezes fill our home

the day after.

Friday, August 6, 2010

welcome back, crazy

Although we've been going to Busch Gardens since Carter was en utero, he's just recently noticed the roller coasters.

And he's obsessed.

This whole week, the couch cushions have been piled on the floor as he's tunneled his way under and over them declaring the whole time, "I'm a roller coaster!" He even has a weird cute noise that makes, which sounds nothing like the actual ride.

With the recent departure from my lovely, uneventful, emotionally-manageable second trimester, I can wholeheartedly relate to Carter's new-found identity.

Hormonally, I'm a roller coaster.

I remember the bipolar-like surges of emotions from my first trimester. I swore I would quit ministry at the slightest discouraging thing, even as I drove to church. Those were negative surges. And I cried one time, with real tears streaming down my cheeks, while Neal and I sat and ate at Ikea's food court. When Neal asked what was wrong, I replied that nothing was--the whole Ikea Experience was just so moving to me. Ikea promoted recycling and living simply (as shown by their 756 sq. ft. sample homes and awesome storage solutions), the cafeteria food was organic and affordable, and I felt like I was back in Europe. They were tears of joy. Right there. Over my Swedish meatballs.

So, this roller coaster is quite familiar to me.

It just sucks to be back.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

for the mommies

While some of you commented on the analogy made in my post Celestial Sticker Rack , a lot of comments were made about the literal story line: Carter freaking out at swim lessons.

So, here's some reassurance. We're getting into trouble with the teacher and looking pretty cute doing it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

hospitality, re-vamped

For years and years, I've dismissed myself from believing I have "the gift of hospitality." I figured that if I couldn't cook like my aunt, and if hosting a dinner party stressed me out, I wasn't cut out for it.
And it's no wonder I thought that. 

Yesterday, I spent thirty minutes tracking with Ina Garten as she and her friend Matthew showed hospitality to their friends, Frank and Steven. Frank and Steven were coming home from a long vacation in England and their poor fridge was empty. So, Ina decided to stock it with white truffle mac n' cheese, lemon custard and fresh bread with cinnamon honey butter. Matthew took on the aesthetic challenge and set their table with fresh cut flowers, apples and placed firewood in the hearth.

It was a lovely homecoming. 

Ina ended the segment with a cheesy, "Yes! Mission accomplished!" and a wink to the camera when her friends confirmed, by text, that they enjoyed the surprise.

That's what I've believed, this whole time, that hospitality is all about.  

Perfectly executed recipes hosted in a beautiful home. 

And then I read this this morning: 

"Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen." 
Ezekiel 16:49,50

Remember Sodom and Gomorrah? They're the cliche for evil in the Bible, the icon synonymous with judgment and seriously rousing the wrath of God. We conservative Republicans are quick to credit Sodom's infamous judgment with her reputation of homosexual behavior, but God clearly spells out her sins in this text: 

Sodom was not biblically hospitable.   

I'm sure there were some serious parties in Sodom, maybe no white truffle mac n' cheese, but I'd bet the house on filet mignon and decent wine. God's bone to pick was that the parties were had and the lifestyles were lived out in total ignorance of the needy.  

So, I can master Bobby Flay's flank steak and I can learn how to use the recently-acquired pasta attachment to my Kitchen Aid mixer, and I can even invite some people over to (try to) enjoy the results, but if I am 

too proud to hang out with those outside of my socio-economic status,

gluttonous in that a dinner party is focused on the food and not the relationships,

and too lazy to meet the real, physical needs of my neighbors

I am not being biblically hospitable.

I'm beginning to think that the hospitality God calls me to has less to do with my perfectly executed productions and more with meeting needs. Even Jesus exhorted his disciples (you can read it here) to throw dinner parties for the needy and the rejects of society; not just for friends. 

I don't know what that looks like in my life. 

But I'm going to explore it. And I'm going to do something about it. 

I want to learn what it means to be biblically hospitable--the radical, Jesus-loving, un-cooking-show kind of way.