For Theresa

Theresa had been part of our family for so long that I can’t remember the first time I met her. She was always a perfectly natural addition to our family, present most days of the week, holidays, vacations at the beach. I remember her at my wedding and meeting my newborn son for the first time. Watching my sister grow up, I also got to watch Theresa.

Lisa and Theresa made quite the pair. I’m not sure another person on earth would agree to watch Billy Madison as many times in a row as the two of them did together or change song lyrics and sing these new lyrics throughout the house until no one was laughing anymore. Or dress up (and they did this was when they were adults!)

Truth be told, I was always a little jealous of their friendship. To have a friend that one could call any hour of the night; a friend who would travel across state lines to lend a hand; a friend to laugh, cry, and get in trouble with; a friend with whom there were no secrets–Lisa and Theresa had a beautiful relationship.

My family and I never saw Theresa without a smile, and she genuinely loved people. My sister and I each had other friends growing up, and, I guess, as is natural, we didn’t always like those other friends. However, that was not the case with Theresa. I don’t know how another person could not like her. Her silliness, her smile, the attention she gave to everyone–Theresa’s personality was endearing.

Knowing her as such a beautiful person only makes her death harder. Why did God allow a person to die who had so much life left? Why take a young wife and mother, one who meant so much to so many people? I don’t know the answer but can only trust the mystery with Him.

A few weeks ago, I walked through my neighborhood. The air was cooler, and the trees were beginning to reflect hues of gold and burnt orange. I couldn’t stop looking up, studying the leaves that blew in the wind above my head.

Fall has always been my favorite season. Finally!–a reprieve from the terrible hot of Georgia, a glimpse of life at its most radiant before the dead of winter comes. But every year my complaint is the same–fall is too darned short.

Maybe that’s what makes fall so special to me. I know I have to get outside, walk in that cool air as soon as it hits, because in a week, I could be staring at gray, drizzly skies while wearing a winter coat.

Fall to me is God’s gift before winter. The leaves on the tree could slowly dry up and fall to the ground in a crunchy mess, but no–God let’s those leaves go out in a bang! Their final breaths are spent, not using energy for photosynthesis, but acknowledging the shorter days and resting, letting the green fade from their leaves revealing brilliant yellows and oranges and reds.

The maple tree in my front has a few red leaves left, and I wish I could pack that color into a crayon. Of course, I can’t; I have to enjoy it while it’s here.

When I think back to Theresa’s last months here, I see brilliance as her life was fading. I watched as my sister left her own family for days at a time to care for her friend, to watch Theresa’s child. I don’t get to witness love like that very often, and I’m so proud of the woman my sister is, the friend she was to Theresa.

At the wake and the funeral, I saw pain in the eyes of so many that loved her, and I could feel the intensity of that love. I listened as friends laughed recounting memories, and I cried when Theresa’s father spoke bravely of his daughter and her precious life. I know there is anger over her death and confusion and a whole other range of emotions that we can’t even explain–and in a way, these emotions are beautiful. The fact that a person could cause us to feel, really feel–it’s amazing.

No, we’d rather not have the winter and the gray that looms over us now. We don’t want to feel the chill in our bones or the wind on our cheek. Yet, we will all face our own winters; Theresa’s just came sooner than we’d like. However, in the midst of our tears, we can look at the love and passion and loyalty that remained when the Theresa we knew faded away. And it was magnificent.

 

Grateful

“I’m going to visit Ms. Wendy this weekend,” I told him as we sat on his bed, straightening up his room a little.

And he looked at me, eyes wide and then downturned. “But I’m going to miss you!” he cried, tears instantly streaming down his face.

I hugged him tight reminding him that our time away would not be long.

“I know,” he interrupted, having already calculated the time. “It’s two days. But I’m going to miss you.”

“I’ll miss you, too,” I said and kissed his head.

And I felt grateful, so grateful for this little boy who lives with his heart wide open, who’s not afraid to show every emotion he’s feeling (regardless of whether or not I want to see every emotion he’s feeling).

And I’m grateful for his daddy who will watch three little ones without protest, knowing I need this time away, knowing how important it is to me.

And I’m grateful for a Nana and Pop Pop who will make one day pass quicker with Chick-Fil-A and cow costumes and sleeping bags.

I have so much for which to be grateful.

And today, I’m especially grateful for a friendship, a friendship which spans both joy and sorrow. A friendship which no distance can sever.

For what are you grateful? Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her 5 Minute Friday before I head out for the weekend.

 

 

Graceful Arms

 

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

I was drawn to the look on her face, the wide-eyed sense of awe she displayed as she looked down at the newborn in her lap. Her little body took on the stillness of a statue, yet she emanated a softness from her limbs, two limbs which carefully framed this new life lying across her legs. I couldn’t stop looking at her face, the creamy porcelain skin and gentle smile framed by a bob of strawberry-blonde hair.

As her older brother came near, she whispered protectively, “You can’t touch her face,” and her arms gracefully outlined the baby as a ballerina who curves her arms in the gentlest of form, cushioning the baby’s head with tender, extended fingertips that didn’t quite touch this infant’s skin. It was as if the space between her arms and the baby’s body was filled with fluffy clouds and pillows, this special barrier enough to protect from the two-year-old now climbing on the couch to take a peek.

I wanted to capture this beautiful image forever but fought the impulse to use my phone as a camera, lest the moment be ruined by calling attention to it. So instead, I marveled at the instinct of my not-quite four-year-old and how a new life pulled a tenderness, a stillness, an impulse for reverence from her spirit. And I breathed in the fragility of life, this precious new life and the one not much older who recognized it.

Five days later, I watched a friend weary from grief hold her son while she sang praises to the God who took her husband home. And again, I was reminded of this fragility each of our bodies carries. Our bodies, these weak, imperfect vessels, not promised a tomorrow. Our hearts, not immune to the deep ache of suffering, left feeling raw and bruised so many times along the journey.

I sat in the car on our drive home, and I felt this ache in my own heart, a pain that I knew wouldn’t dull quickly, thoughts of my friends filling my mind. But I looked out the window over the rail on the interstate at the mountains of Tennessee, these rolling hills, and I was reminded that the strong arms that reached down and made these were also gentle enough to hold them.

Throughout the last few days I had seen how Wendy was held. Friends who had accompanied her every step of this difficult journey, friends who made meals or sat around her kitchen table, friends who offered bedrooms to her family or coordinated the cleaning of her house, friends who extended their graceful arms and cradled her head.

I felt graceful arms days later in a gentle breeze against a hot, dry Georgia afternoon, lifting up our heads, tousling our hair as we listened to the preacher pray in front of the casket.  These gentle arms that understood the fragility of all our lives, offering a small blessing in the midst of our grief.

That night as I looked out on the green hills from the window of our van, I felt a profound tiredness. When we pulled into our driveway after midnight, we made our way into the house from the dark and thanked Matt’s parents for watching the kids. We spoke little as we made our way up the stairs and quickly dressed for bed. And that night as we lay under the covers, we held each other a little tighter than normal, resting in each others’ arms, knowing that we could never take these fragile lives for granted.

For those who had been following or are interested in Wendy’s journey, click here to read her final post. Her raw honesty is so beautiful and touching. Thank you for your prayers these last few days. I will update my sidebar (finally) in the next couple of days, and Wendy’s post will appear there, as well.

 

Sad News

I spent the last two days at my parents’ house since Matt was out of town, and I had planned to write a silly post about my brief consideration of moving in with them. However, that post no longer seems appropriate, and, truthfully, I am at a loss for words.

Last year, I shared my best friend Wendy’s story as her husband battled esophageal cancer. Unfortunately, his battle ended this morning.

To say that Wendy is an amazing woman is an understatement. In fact, I consider her a mystery of God. Not only can her mind calculate strange math problems and understand the concepts of AP Physics, enough so to teach a group of high school students, she can write the most beautiful prose one’s eyes have ever seen. But more amazing than her display of giftedness is her inspiring faith. I encourage you today to read the journal Wendy and Emmett together chronicled so beautifully of their fight with cancer.

I know many of you who read this blog pray and believe in a God who answers prayers. I ask you today to pray with all your heart for Wendy and her son Quinn. And for those of you who may read my blog and are unresolved in your faith, I challenge you to read Wendy and Emmett’s testimony. I truly believe their faith will inspire you. And I believe, whether or not you know what you believe, God hears the prayers of all His children. Wendy and Quinn could use them today.

Would you please pray with me?

Dear God, may Wendy and Quinn feel your arms of love surround them as they grieve. Give Wendy the strength she will need in the days, months, years ahead, and guide Quinn as he grows. May they never forget the love and happiness they shared with Emmett, and may they all be united together one day in your presence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Feel free to add your own prayers for Wendy and Quinn in the comments if you are willing to pray publicly. Publicly or privately, I appreciate all your prayers for my friend.

The Blind Date

The world  of Facebook and Twitter and the blogosphere is so amazing to me. The ability to connect with someone on the other side of the world is literally at my fingertips.  When I started blogging, I wasn’t writing so much for the connections; I simply enjoyed writing and wanted to get in the habit of doing it more.  But as I continued to share my blog, I started to recognize individuals who would comment.  Over time, we began to have conversations through blog posts, and some of those conversations have led to friendships.

As one with many acquaintances but few that I would consider true friends, I use the word ‘friendship’ carefully.  I am a relatively nice individual, and I would venture to say that most people who meet me like me.  However, I seem to have trouble getting past the acquaintance level.  Perhaps I’m a little inhibited when it comes to asking people to do things with me, or truth-be-told, I’m sure I sometimes isolate myself in the little bubble I have created for the kids and me.  Or I guess there is the other possibility that after reading my blog, people just think I’m crazy and tend to stay away.

In any event, there was one woman whose name would pop up frequently in the comment section of my blog, and mine in hers.  Lisa is her name, which also happens to be the name of my own sister.  Anyway, Lisa would leave little comments here and there, and I would do the same, and after a while, I just knew this woman would be my friend if we ever met.  At one point in our commenting, I wrote that, in fact, we should meet–after all, I knew Lisa lived somewhere in the area of where I live because she went to the same church as a friend of mine.

A couple of weeks later, Lisa sent me an e-mail agreeing and offering suggestions of where we should meet and when.  She even joked that we were mimicking the movie You’ve Got Mail, a movie that I’ve never seen, so I don’t know if I’m playing Meg Ryan or Tom Hanks.  And the date was set–a Tuesday at Starbucks.  My first blind date ever.

I guess the date wasn’t completely blind, as Lisa’s picture was on her blog and my picture on mine, but how did I know that she wasn’t using one of her Glamour Shots from years ago?  I’m seriously thinking of changing my profile picture to my Glamour Shot from when I was 14; they made me look 30, after all.  I digress.

I can honestly say that I wasn’t nervous about meeting Lisa.  Yes, I wondered how naturally conversation would flow, but I wasn’t nervous.  As I said before, I knew we would be friends.  And sure enough, from the moment Lisa opened the door of the Starbucks for Chloe and me on that rainy moment, our ‘in person’ friendship began.  While her daughter sat quietly and perfectly in her stroller and Chloe sat in multiple chairs eating both her snack and my breakfast (No, Chloe, I’m not bitter), Lisa and I chatted away.  Within minutes of meeting, we were already discussing our child-spacing methods or lack thereof and went on to filling in the gaps that our blogs didn’t provide.

And it was refreshing.  It was refreshing to meet a kindred spirit, a woman whom I didn’t know, yet at the same time, feel like I knew for years.  It was refreshing to sit and sip a cup of coffee, enjoy watching our little girls, while the drizzle sprinkled over the outside.  It was refreshing, and I look forward to doing it again.

When Matt got home that night, he asked how my blind date went.  I told him, “Lisa and I really hit it off, and we’re going to see each other again.”  Matt just rolled his eyes.  I hope he doesn’t think he’s going to be replaced.  After all, he his my best friend, even if Lisa is my new friend.

This week I am thankful for my new friendship and my old friendships with which God has blessed me.  Thank you, also, to my other steady friends that I may not have ever met but continue to brighten my days with their thoughtful comments on my blog.  If I ever get to your state or country, or if you’re ever in Georgia, I know there’s a local Starbucks waiting for us to meet!  For what friendships are you thankful this week?  Come share for this ‘Focus On It Friday’!

Four Hours to Clarity

Sometimes a girl has to drive four hours away to gain clarity about the realities under her nose….

As we sat every night sipping hot tea with honey and nibbling delicate cookies, our conversation fell right in step with where it had left off a year or so ago.  I found comfort in my friend’s presence, in her home that I had never seen.  I found comfort when I discovered she had three places in her kitchen reserved for chocolate–a section in the refrigerator, a corner of the pantry, and a space in one of the cabinets–and that the young teenaged girl who always supplied the treats for our weekend spend-the-night parties had not changed when she grew up.

And as we talked and reminisced about high school and friends whose paths we had not crossed in years, amidst the medicine cups and tubes that served as a reminder for my visit, I realized that I had my true friend for whom I was yearning.  She just lived four hours away.

As I played with her little boy, I saw my son and my daughters in his face.  In his laugh that filled his body with delight, and in his moments of defiance, I saw that while each child is a unique gift from God, each is also the same.  I found comfort as a mother in these moments of watching him.  I found comfort when I observed my friend hug her son tenderly and patiently guide him down the path of obedience, this young teenaged girl now grown up with her own child.

And as I watched and observed I realized things that I needed to do differently with my own children and things that could stay the same.  I could see them and their little hearts clearly now that I was four hours away.

I hugged my friend tightly with bitter-sweet emotion the night before I left, not wanting to leave behind our chats over tea, but anxious to embrace three little people and their daddy.  I loaded the car the next morning and began my drive down the interstate–four hours down a stretch of highway that looked a little clearer on the journey home.