My mom will hate this post.

I went to a visitation last night.  Friends lost a grandma.  I barely made it out the door to go.  I am thankful I went – God forbid I ever get to a place where my feelings trump that of a grieving family.  But it was hard.  It was hard because I am really, really ill-prepared to deal with “reality”.  I came home last night to a good husband, to talk about reality…

I can’t handle it.  That is what I say to Brad, over and over.  And last night he said “What is IT?”  You can’t keep running from this thing you won’t name… IT.

It is the fact that mom just might not get better.  It’s been almost two months since her diagnosis – you would think the obvious thing to have dealt with is the fact that stage three cancer doesn’t always get healed.  But no.  Haven’t touched that thought yet.  Sure – it nags at the back of my head, but in the long dark shelves of my mind, I break down my thoughts, and put them in little boxes.  And some days I open a box.  Some days two.  The day mom came home from Florida, I opened the box that read “Mom is sick.”  Sick is different than cancer. Cancer is something you have. Sick is something you are.  Those are different thoughts. So, on the shelf, in the very back corner, sits a little box marked death.  And like a kid with an already wrapped present, sometimes I pull at the corner of the box a little, maybe give it a little shake… and tuck it back on the shelf.  But Brad pushed last night, and the box toppled into my lap.

“Why won’t you look at that box Nic?  Why is that the “IT”?”

“Because Mom can’t die.”

“And why can’t she?”

“Because I still need her.”

 

As though, as though NEEDING something badly enough means you get to keep it.  Not that people are things to keep – you know what I mean though, right?  So he gently, gently prods and says “but she might not make it through this Nic.”  And every time he says it, I emphatically shake my head no….

I am so comfortable with denial.  I know death is a reality.  I’ve talked at Bible study before about the fact that I actually think about death every day.  Not in an uncomfortable way either.  I’m okay with death.  Death is the door to eternity – and that for a believer is a good thing.  I don’t fear my death.  I can’t even say I fear my mom’s.  The truth is – we all go someday.  We are all walking such a little little journey on this earth.  We would be in a sad place if we all allowed our fears of loss to immobilize us.  But the temptation is there, a little bit.  It’s just that the idea that death is something I have to maybe accept as part of my daily reality is… well… not something I want to think about.  Not REALLY.

I have good people in my life.  People where I say “Brad thinks I should look in this box called death” and they say “Hey, watch this video while you’re at it.  It’ll make you cry.”  Because they know.  They know that what I need today is to cry about things that up until now I have shelved as too-hard-to-deal-with….

 

How many is a lot?

I had an extremely humbling conversation with a friend the other day. It’s amazing how sometimes it only takes a few brief words to change your outlook…

We were discussing the devastation in Japan. It was in the early stages of the goings on there, and, in the context of the size of their island, and the population, and the earthquake, and the tsunami, I made a stupid statement.  The death toll was “only” at about 250-300 people. What I meant was – I expected it to be higher… Which it is now… I meant it could be worse, and that given the nature of what happened – 300 lives seemed like a… small number. And what I said was: “That doesn’t sound like a lot.” My friend’s quick response? “How many is a lot?” The question stopped me dead in my tracks.  How many is a lot? How many is too many?  The answer before my mom’s diagnosis probably would have been a flippant 1000.  1500. My answer Friday though – One.  One is a lot.  One is too many.

It’s easy – of course we are all sad by the situation on the other side of the world – it’s heartbreaking.  But the truth is, we don’t mourn more just because the death toll is higher.  It was more uncomfortable and painful watching CNN and listening to a momma talk about losing the grip on her daughter’s hand when the waves hit, than the thought of so many many people being gone.  I guess because we can not escape the reality that we are made to love one another, and fellowship in community – and it’s only when it seems like it happened TO somebody that we really grasp the pain of it.

It was a strange dichotomy yesterday – our pastor was in prayer for only two things from the pulpit yesterday – the tragedy that is Japan right now, and my mom.  Nobody came up to console one another over the people lost there… But I received so many hugs, and prayers, and words of affirmations because everybody felt for Laurel and I sitting in our pew. We hurt for one another when we are real with one another…

It’s so easy to wall up our hearts.  It’s so easy to shut up our eyes and ears to what is going on around us – to avoid the pain that is Japan’s reality.  But also to block out the hurts that happen to those across the street from us. My encouragement to you today: Don’t be afraid to hurt for someone today. Don’t be  afraid to think on someone else’s pain, to be real with someone, to share in someone’s grieving – whether they live in Japan, or down the street…

‎”To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ~ C.S. Lewis

Be vulnerable today.

running.

I’ve thought about this post on and off all day.  All week really.  I haven’t had the nerve or the energy really to deal with it yet.  I’m anticipating a breakdown of sorts by the time I am done it – but we’ll term that “therapeutic” for now I guess.

I am avoiding God.

I think, at the core of it, is the sin of pride.  Of course, I imagine most times we run from God it’s pride related.  But the truth of the matter is, I’d rather be strong in my own strength right now, than weak in Christ.

It’s complicated.  I have no doubts God is working all things for my good in all that is going on.  I have no doubts His will will bring us the most everlasting joy.  I don’t find myself angry with Him, or wondering why.  I don’t second guess His love, or His sovereignty, or His purpose and plan.  My head and my heart are in agreement with what the Scriptures say about who He is, and how that relates to me.  So, it’s not from the theology or the heart of God that I run from.  I run from His comfort.

You see – I can go about my day, and function, and not cry when I’m being strong.  I can answer the phone, and talk to clients, and run my press and parent quite well when I listen to my secular music.  If I block out what’s going on, I’m able to keep it together.  But the minute I listen to lyrics like Jadon Lavik’s  “Someday”, I lose my composure.  And today, when the pastor shared our news with the congregation and there was an audible, collective intake of breath, I had no hope of keeping the tears from running down my face.  I can’t pray without tears.  I can’t sing hymns without getting choked up.  Reading Scripture is hard.  And so is answering “are you okay?”.

No.  I’m not okay.  My mom has cancer.  But, because I don’t feel hopeless, or helpless, and I don’t doubt the Lord’s ability to heal her, I feel guilty about crying.  I feel like being upset, and teary eyed, and scared is weak right now – and that for lots of reasons.  I have an innate ability and desire to be there for others – that’s my first concern in all of this. Navigating through one another’s grief is tricky.  It’s kind of like… It’s like reading a map where all the markings are in a different language.  You can kind of make it out, but it might take a little longer.  And we are all sort of on the same map, but we have our own paths on it.  We have strong days and weak days.  And the Lord is good to us – because our strong and weak days don’t seem to often line up with one another’s.  And so some days we can be on the giving end of things, and some days on the taking end.  And that is a very wonderful thing.  I just don’t do taking so well.  Taking feels weak too.  It’s ironic.  It’s actually hypocritical. Because my advice to anyone standing where I am would be (has been), to not fight the emotions that come.

I feel as though NEEDING God right now is admitting that this is a scary thing.  How horribly, terribly naive and sinful.  The truth of course is that we all need Him all the time.  “I need Thee every hour” doesn’t just apply to the bad days.  The sooner I recognize and revel in the idea that there is not a breath I take that He has not given me, the better off I’ll be. Not needing God is an absolute fallacy.

In this case though specifically- and not in the general sense right now – I’m reminded of the time that Paul  asked the Lord to remove the thorn in his flesh.  And God would not, because He wanted Paul to rely on Him:

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 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. – 2 Cor 12:9,10

He does not want me strong.  He wants me to need Him.  He wants to meet all of my needs too.  In my running from His comfort, He is not made much of.  In my self-reliance, others don’t see His grace and goodness.  It’s only in my weakness and need that His light can truly shine…

 

I’m scared.  I’m scared that once I humble myself, truly humble myself, and admit to Him just HOW MUCH THIS HURTS RIGHT NOW the tears won’t stop.  I’m afraid that in listening to songs that ought to give comfort – hymns of strength, and eternity, and hope, that I will simply buckle and crumble under the weight of it all.  As though running from God, and His mercy, I can somehow avoid the inevitable.  Because – regardless of whether He blesses my mom with 6 months, or another 4 decades, eternity is inevitable.  And how I’m choosing to run to or from His comfort now is most definitely setting a pattern for the future…

An open letter to my mom.

He could not have chosen someone better suited to this task mom.  I do not think that is a normal first response.  But, as the thoughts swirl in my head, I can not help but recognize that He makes us no promises, or guarantees of health.  He does not say His ways are our ways, or that His timing will always feel right to us.  I have no doubts that God’s Word is truth when He says “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  And this is, of course, suffering.  If the prognosis this past Tuesday had been the absolute best possible, it would still be suffering – there are still tests, and surgeries, and waiting, and unknowns.  But again – you have told me you are not asking “why me?” but “why not me?”

If we believe, as we do, that our purpose, especially as believers, is to glorify God – by our faith in Him, by our joy in Him, then I know that in all of these tests that we have on the horizon, the good Lord really could not have chosen someone better to radiate His hope, and peace and Spirit.

 

I love you Mom.  I think of all the countless loads of laundry you never complained about, the crepes you made for breakfast, the lavish dinners you cooked (always from scratch) when we had company.  I think of shopping trips where you refused to buy socks for yourself, because the budget had only enough room for them or the shirt I wanted.  I think of flannelgraph stories, and Bible songs at bedtime, and of the twenty hours a week you used to put into every Bible study.  I think of you praying at 5:30 every morning for your family.  I reflect on coffee in bed until the day I moved out of the house… You have a servant’s heart, a thirst for knowledge, and a gift for hospitality.  You love with the ferocity of a mother bear.  Your life is a passion – and you put more heart, and emotion, and care and fire into it than anyone I know.  You have set an example to me of what being a mother ought to look like.  And what being a wife ought to look like.

Your relationship with dad is like something out of the movies, or fairy tales.  Not because you never fight, not because you always agree – but because you are still crazy in love after thirty years.  Because you are one another’s best friend.  Because enjoying one another and preferring one another over the company of anyone else simply has not changed in three decades… You two have something remarkable together – and being raised with such an example is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.

We would be lying if we said these days aren’t going to be hard.  We pray for the best.  I will not even say I’m “praying for a miracle” – because I don’t see the Lord bringing you through this as being anything above and beyond “normal” – I pray that He would be delighted to let His light shine through you and your testimony for many many years.  I am trusting Him for it.  I am not a fatalistic calvinist either – to be sure – He will do what He will do.  But, prayer changes things.  I know how precious they are to you right now.  People don’t know what to do – I say pray.  Because we know that the Lord hears, and answers….

 

I see you… on the list of unmentioned names in Hebrews 11 – one “of whom the world was (is) not worthy.”  Those who have suffered, and yet shine His glory.  Oh Mom – it’s not going to be easy – but I rejoice in the thought of how greatly He is going to be magnified in all of this.  The world simply is not worthy of you.  It’s not.  To say that I have been blessed to have one of the most incredible, strong, beautiful and remarkable women for a mother is an understatement.  You enrich the lives of those you touch – beyond what you are ever aware…  I rejoice in the hardships that are coming.  I rejoice in the opportunities to be real with one another – to draw closer to Him, and closer to those around us.  Life IS bittersweet – I want the sweet from it – for as we contemplate the absolute brevity of life there comes a freedom.  Our tongues are a little loosened.  We hug more, and cry more… We show those around us just how much we care for them.  And how much we trust our Lord and Saviour.

Regardless of what the coming days bring us – better news, worse news, good days, bad days – I am encouraged, strengthened and blessed by your attitude.  I love the example you are setting Mom – an example I knew you would set when hard days came.  I thank you, for the woman you are.  Soli Deo Gloria.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” C.S. Lewis

IF.  If there was a way to sum up the last six weeks.  But of course not.

I tremble, just a little, at the idea of eventually hitting the word publish to the right of the screen.  To say that words get stuck in my heart is an absolute understatement.  I have avoided blogging for so long – perhaps not because I had too little to say, but too much….

There have been words.  And words upon words.  I’ve yelled at someone for only the second time in my life this past month.  Imagine that – I’ve only ever been livid enough in my life to explode on people twice.  Circumstances are somewhat irrelevant to you, reader.  Suffice it to say – my emotions have been palpable.  My heart has been scratched… Like little flakes of fiberglass under the skin – it feels irritated, and raw, and pained.  I hurt.  And don’t recover well.

You must understand something.  I can share other people’s burdens.  LOVE to.  I may not carry them around the best the next day – but a difficult coffee is honestly my favourite thing in the world.  But, as a good friend put it so well today, we seem to be able to help other people draw up their own blue prints, but can’t build a house for ourselves. (She’s cut of the same cloth)  Perhaps it’s because being in the midst of something is such a different perspective.  Like zooming in on a freckle doesn’t tell you what a person’s face looks like.  I’m just too close to the pain this time around.

Thoughts are everywhere – do you follow?

My dear, dear friend lost his father the following week.  I sobbed.

I want to say more on that – but what is there to say?  I did not know his dad.  Met him once, and that but briefly.  But, I wanted to share in my friend’s pain. I can describe what it feels like to walk beside a friend, but that feels a little intrusive don’t you think?  Hurting with others is this odd odd path….

And then – the bliss of it – I spent a day with my sister and brother-in-law, as my niece came into this world.  Save my wedding day, and the birth of my own babes, I anticipate no day trumping the joys and blessings of that day.  Birth is beautiful – you learn what you’re made of.  Laurel is made of strength and fortitude and joy and beauty.  Leland is made of the sort of nurturing and protective and instinct I never knew he had – God is good.  And Charlotte is, naturally, perfect.  That the Lord would see fit to bless her and fill her with His strength and Spirit as she grows….

But.

Are there words, for the last two weeks?  Heavy.  Weighty.   Faith-building.   Scary.

I got a quick text.  It didn’t say call me, but that’s what it meant of course.  I think it may have actually said “I don’t want to talk about it but…” But that, too, says call me.  I don’t listen well you see.  So I called.  And kept my composure as the world spun a little.  Don’t hate me friend, for saying it hurts.  I’d be lying if I said otherwise.  Life, sometimes, comes in hints.  It feels like a teaser though – I don’t what to toy with the “what ifs”, I want to deal with the realities.  Well, sort of.  I’m pretty sure when confirmation of anything comes, I’ll run from that too for some time.  I’ve never understood denial as a defense mechanism (well, of course I do, I hide parts of myself from myself so I don’t have to deal with myself all the time – but EXTERNAL realities?  Those should be easily grasped.)  It’s your hurt.  We won’t talk about that just yet.  The problem – the THING – that I struggle with, is that I won’t admit that it’s okay that these pains people have actually impact my life.  You’d love me less if I hurt less though.  Maybe not love less… respect less?  I don’t know.  I do know I wouldn’t be a good friend to you right now if I didn’t feel things so acutely.

The kicker.

Abnormal cells.  Huh.  Okay.  I’ve heard that before.  We can deal with that.  We get the test results on Monday… Okay – we won’t panic till Monday.  Am I allowed to panic on Monday?  If it is, can I panic on Monday?  Monday, February 21st, I come downstairs from a shower to see my family starting in on our hardwood floors.  Mom is standing in the middle of my living room floor, coat still on.  All I say… “And?”  Her eyes well up.  Her head bobs as she says “It’s cancer.”  Oh God.

We hug.  What else do you do?  You don’t talk.  There aren’t words yet.  When the tears stop long enough to catch a breath we discuss what this means.  Surgery.  More tests.  More waiting for reports.  And phone calls to make.  I sit on my bed as she cries while she calls my sister.  Cry as she calls my brother.  And then we get back to work.   The day is broken up by tears at times.  I hide from everyone as much as I can.  I grieve best in solitude….

Is it grief yet?  Is it too early to call it that?  I mourn a six letter word being in my life…  And today brought many realizations.  I realize I’m making that fateful decision to mourn what MAY BE (not even what WILL BE), instead of thriving in what IS.  Making the most of every day.  Remembering our true joys and blessings.  Remembering that life is but a vapor, and treasuring what matters… I gotta stop hurting all the time.

The problem is, that for all the talking I do with friends, I actually have no clue whatsoever how to give myself permission to feel the pain as my own.  It’s not my diagnosis.  Or my cancer.  It’s not my dad gone.  It’s not my fight.  It’s not my… it’s not my… those are what my head says.  Guilt, and fear, are actually the triumphant emotions right now.  Imagine.

I have had only one day without tears these last two weeks.  It makes me feel weak.  And irritable.  I think of my sister’s midwife though, telling her to sink into the pain, and watching her demeanor change when she stopped fighting it… I’m fighting the pain.  I’m making it ten times harder on myself than I have to.  I think that’s because sinking into it sounds like “giving in” – it doesn’t sound like working with what is already going on to bring about the changes that will happen whether you feel prepared or not….

 

Things I am not confused about in all of this.   God always gives His children BEST.  Best is not always easy, or what we want.  Best is what brings Him glory – and there is that in all of this.  I’ve been drawn closer to Him, and closer to my friends, and closer to my own heart in the last few weeks than ever before.  That is good.  And best….

This life is a vapor.  And it’s not HOME.  For the believer, it’s the absolute worst I’ll ever know.  The absolute, absolute worst in all of this is I spend a few decades without my mom, and an eternity with her.  It’s a drop in the eternal bucket.  The sooner we recognize the swiftness of this life, the better we’ll make the most of each second.

My friends, my family, are good people.  People who promise to be there.  People who’ve let me weep on them.  People who know how to ask just the right questions.  People who know when to call.  And when not to.   The Lord has lovingly provided me with an enormous network of loved ones to turn to to help show me kindness.  What a blessing…

 

I know these aren’t my battles.  That’s the crux of it.  The paradox.  Finding out how to support and lift up and walk with those who are actually the ones hurting, when you hurt yourself… I think that gets to be one my biggest lessons in all of this…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group hug.

“Leave her alone.  Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to Me…. She has done what she could.”  Mark 14:6,8

We have been going through the book of Mark in church, and yesterday was on the passage where Mary anoints Christ with a really, really expensive bottle of perfume.  But what jumped out at me was the part where Jesus said she had done what she could.  It made me pause and reflect….

I think we get caught up sometimes in the idea that things have to be big, and complicated and over the top to really express ourselves.  Or to show love.  But they don’t… Jesus looks at our hearts, and sees when we have done what we can.

Children understand this better than we do.  I listened to the sweetest ongoing conversation the last few days.  The kids understood the significance of Brad starting a new job this morning.  And they have been planning in their little hearts to show him they love him and are excited about it.  Their plan?  A perfectly co-ordinated group hug when he leaves Monday morning for work.  They have been talking about it since last Thursday.  Who would hug first, where they might stand…. It was adorable.  Like, grips me in the heart good.  Because they wanted to do what they could, with what they had.  Which, when you are 5,6 and 8, may not be much.  And it was the perfect hug.

I love it.  They didn’t pause to think if it reflected enough what their hearts felt.  They didn’t wonder if Brad would think it too small, or too cheap, or too simple.  In fact, it’s the enthusiasm in the simplicity that makes it so perfect.

I have a lot to learn from them.  From Mary.  It is better to make use of what you have, and rejoice in sharing the littlest things in life, than to search for the bigger, more grandiose thank yous all the time.  God sees my heart, and delights in the small gifts too…

Thanksgiving.

I love Thanksgiving… I love fall – it always strikes me as a season of memory and reflection.  I have an incredible amount to be thankful for this year.  It has been a truly blessed year.  God is good.  In no particular order:

1.  My sister is expecting.  God makes all things beautiful in His time, and I am so eager to meet baby Esser in January.

2.  Brad starts his new job a week from Monday.  He is such a hard worker, and I am eager to see him in a job he can flourish in.

3.  Freedom and Liberty.  I can not wait to take my ever-expanding business into a serious direction with letterpress.  It’s a slow going start – there is SO much to learn, but it’s so cool to have these presses in my home…  I’m thankful for a husband that is so insanely supportive of me and my endeavors.

4. Verity Ink.  SO much more than I expected this “part time job” to be.  I love what I do.  Even if there’s more to do than I thought there would be so early on.  I am most blessed by the friendships I have formed.  I love my clients.  And the vendors that have become friends…  I never anticipated building so many positive relationships.  I don’t think I knew it was possible…

5.  My marriage.  I love the wedding industry.  It’s easy to enjoy because I married my best friend ten and a half years ago… I hope the girls I help plan with can enjoy the connection, devotion, fulfillment and soul-satisfying contentment I have with my better half.  Brad, you are an incredible man.  I thank God for the man He has chosen to bless my life with.

6.  My children.  Judah-Bear, Chaos and Spark-Plug.  I prayed for active children.  I know the Lord smiles. I have never met three livelier more fun children in my life.  They bring joy and smiles and craziness to my life.

7.  Family.  How good to be home in Sarnia, where we can enjoy parents and siblings.  What a blessing for my children too…

8.  Wednesday mornings.  The BEST group of friends a girl could ever want.  Tears and hugs and food and laughs every week.  God has knit us together for a lifetime – we all know we have something special, and I treasure every one of you.

9.  Life Lessons.  I’ve grown a lot this year.  I don’t know how much others see…. I’ve learned it’s okay to state what I want.  It’s okay to speak my heart.  Hugs are good. People just might actually like me for who I am.  I whine too much.  “Trust” is not a swear word.  It will all get done.  I don’t have to think a thing to death every time.

10.  Being used.  I’ve had those instances in my last year where God has allowed me to meet needs… It’s a humbling experience that I delight in…

11. Life.  My Dad told me a few weeks back that I have the chance to be in the 1%.  I asked which percent is that?  He said the one that will be blessed enough to be happy in both this life and the next… The things that stick with me for years are things my dad said… “You’ve chosen your love.  Now love your choice.”  “Complexity is not a virtue.” and this too.  I feel deliciously spoiled.  And joyful.  My life is a gift from above.  May I always recognize that….

12.  Salvation.  Is there anything to be more thankful for?  That God would send His Son, to save a sinner such as me.  How humbling.  Oh, that I might live in the light of this truth daily!  My life ought to be lived in the shadow of the cross – with an eye on His suffering, His forgiveness, His glory….

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