Tuesday, October 21, 2014

i am sure of this

i spent about seven weeks this summer preparing a study called Who God Says He Is to share with the women in my church & community.  it's a look at how God describes Himself in the Bible- what He reveals through the names and attributes used throughout His written story.  layer after layer, each word builds a clearer picture of Him, and still we never finish.  He is never done showing us who He is and how He longs for us to reflect Him in and to our world.

for a few hours almost every day, i asked Him to pour out the abundance of who He is like unleashed clouds on those warm hazy August days.  that is something He loves to do... to drench us in Himself!  i soaked in Truth, drank in Mystery, overwhelmed again that this Well will not run dry. 

Creator and Restorer, Accessible and Unchanging, Sovereign and Faithful, Merciful, Just, Good... 
did you know it's possible to be completely satisfied and achingly thirsty at the same time?  
to both see Him more clearly and know at the very core of your being that these mysteries are beyond your understanding?  
to recognize yourself as He created you, Image Bearer, and yet long to know who you are becoming more strongly than ever?  
it's a rumbling waterfall of contrasting feelings- noisy and restful at once.



this is where i found myself- sopping wet and dripping with Grace and Truth- on September 11. in the early Fall sunshine, wrapped in a soft blanket and sitting in a chippy white Adirondack chair {my most prized roadside rescue}, i was full to overflowing as I answered the phone and talked to the doctor about my breast cancer.

i tell you this because i am not so strong, not so faithful.  i'm angry at this bad news, hurt by the chemotherapy, afraid for my children, sad for my husband.  
i'm also sure of this: 
 all that God showed me of Himself in August 
did not become untrue in September.  

the abundance of Himself that He poured over me?  it's soaking in, filling the places that i cannot see or describe to you. He is still my Restorer, still Unchanging, still Sovereign, still Good, still Merciful... all this and more.
He is still enough.






your prayers, gifts, letters, hugs, meals, kind words, service and love are such an offering of His grace to our family... we will never be able to give back all that we've already received, and we are grateful that you are pouring out on us.  
we love you. yes- you.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

a few answers

so many of you have experience with cancer... i'm so sorry.  i'm sad that you know what questions to ask.  i'm sad that you're familiar with the tests.  i'm sad that you know the pros and cons of different treatments.  these are ideas and words that aren't meant to be in our lives.  cancer is part of our broken world.  God is present in every part of it- He is present with us. but we are not made for this.  i'm sorry.

because you know what to ask, i feel strange about not being more forthcoming with my medical information.  it's not about being shy or needing privacy- i've had babies, mammograms, biopsies, and pap smears with entire medical school classes observing (exaggeration is my therapy). i'm not shy about sharing what's going on, but i'm not sure it's always helpful?

you see, when i hear you asking for more information, i hear this:
"i love you, and i'm worried about you."

"i'm afraid for you and your family."

"i want to do something because i care about you so much."

thank you for asking- i know you love us.

i'm not sure more details would really help.  somehow each new piece of information also adds five new questions.  one biopsy tells us that cancer is present, but not size, stage, or how far it has spread.  one scan tells us the approximate size, but also gives false results based on hormone levels.  another scan gives me a license to be radioactive- literally, a card stating that it's okay that i'm setting off radiation alarms.  (matt called it 'the hulk scan.'  i am not green or huge, but i'm hopeful...) 

even now, i'm waiting for 3 more tests before beginning treatment.  6 weeks into this we still don't know as much as we would like.

so how about this for basic answers:  
we do know that there is cancer present in the right breast. 
we do know that it's triple positive, which has good and bad points.
we do know that i will be receiving chemotherapy beginning as soon as possible.
we do know that i will have surgery after chemo is done.

and many of you now have 10 more questions because you know so much about cancer.  i'm so sorry that you know what to ask, and i'm sorry that i'm not giving you solid answers. 
but i'm not sorry, really- thank you for loving us with your questions.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

grace for deeper waters


there's only a slight difference in how it feels, facing your own cancer compared to cancer in someone you love as part of yourself.  it's like looking down at your body (you know it's your body- you're inside it) versus looking at your reflection (is that what i look like to others?  how odd).  

the difference is in the perspective.  

i've been here before as a wife.  in 2009, matt had a lump. then an appointment. then a wait. then another appointment.  then a surgery, a few tests. another wait.

then cancer.  and all that goes with cancer. 

i've said before, and i should go on record with it:  i am so glad our cancer chapter was so short.  it was not easy- matt, i promise that i know it wasn't easy for you.  i was there, and it was... is there really an appropriate description?  
i know short does not mean happy, but it also means he is alive and cancer free.  not in remission- no cancer at all. 5 years.  i know this is good, and i am aware and grateful.  too many friends are still being treated, still losing their loved ones, still in pain.  i know.

and now here we are again.  i have breast cancer.  first lumps. appointments. then tests. waiting.  more tests to come.  words like 'concerning.' 'suspicious.' 'how soon can you get in for this biopsy?' 

'i'm sorry to tell you this over the phone.'

i don't know if it's worse now than it was before?  with the knowing.  the familiarity.  is it harder to have been here or to be completely unaware?  
i could argue both sides. 

it wasn't my body in 2009, but it was my heart.  my only one.  their only father.
i didn't get sick, but i was suffering.  they were, too.
and now it is my body, and it's all the same feelings.  i'm their only mother.  i'm his only one- his heart. 

and we will be okay- that's our plan.  (and as far as we know, it is a good plan).
we don't want to do this. not again. yet God meets us here just as He meets us every day and every place. His grace carries us even in this.

****************************************************************
this is new information for some of you, and i am sorry you are reading it here instead of sitting with us in the mountains by a crackling fire, watching the sunset, sipping excellent red wine.  would that we could discuss all hard things in such a place!  we are thankful to love and be loved by so many, and yet that makes it impossible to have personal conversations with each of you.  if we do not respond to your text, your email, your call... if we are not ready to meet you for prayer and coffee... will you give us grace?  you are loved by us, and we are grateful for you, and we are limited by our sadness and our need to rest.




Monday, September 1, 2014

Pour

As 'back to school' happens and life is moving on, I'm feeling in between.  Here and there. New England and Midwest. This day, September 1,  marks the beginning of a new season (figuratively). Nine months in our new home- with our new friends- our new normal.  
I wrote this about a year ago as a part of my going away process... it still brings old faces to mind, and happily, also a group of new faces. I am confident in how He is pouring out a new story- a good story for all of us, even in the letting go.


Pour.  It’s the first word in my mind when I consider our friendship.
Pour out.  Pour over.  Pour into.
And we do pour a considerable amount, don’t we?  
We pour water, coffee, tea, wine, sangria, champagne, cocktails, and 
more sangria, please.

After we pour our drinks, we pour out ourselves.
We pour ideas, recipes, stories, and advice.
We pour our laughter, love, prayers, tears (these are pouring now- the others at the cafe beginning to get uncomfortable).  
We pour anxiety, fear, concern, grace, and forgiveness.  We pour life into each other.

We pour out gifts... the brilliant and undeserved treasure put in us by the Lord.  
We do have a variety of gifts, have you seen?
You pour Welcome and Hospitality, the warm, priceless offering of a place to rest and connect.
You pour gracious, painful Honesty and the beautiful ability to enter into conflict to make us face our true selves and force our friendships into stronger places.
You pour out sweet Vulnerability, challenge us all to look at our fears and own them before Our God who says, ‘do not worry!’ 
You pour Creativity, and as we marvel at your artistry we all feel God’s presence more intensely.
You pour out Wisdom, Experience, light-filled Guidance for us to follow into the Unknown and New.
You pour Encouragement, the celebratory support from friends who know, understand, and believe wholeheartedly that we can do it... whatever the task.
You pour out precious Faith.  Trust that God always does what He says He will do.
You pour quiet Attentiveness, your listening ears and deep heart abiding with all that we pour back.
You pour bold words of Hope.  Powerful testimony of what is to come... future Grace.

You’ve poured all that God has put inside you, and  I feel God’s Grace and Presence in your faces and hands.  I’m filled to the brim, ready to overflow to a new family, a new circle of smiling faces. Still, I can’t imagine life without a cup in my hands and your beautiful faces before me- pouring liquid favor and life-giving love into each other.  I can’t imagine daily life without you.

Will you still be my people?  Can we still pour life into each other?  Pour out ourselves, pour blessing over each other?  I know I need you on the other side of my cup.  As I pour coffee (in my hobnail mug, of course),  I promise to pray for you in deep, joyful, extravagant ways.  
Because you need this.

Pour a cup, pour out your prayers, and allow God to pour into each of us in divine mystery... and know that the cry of your heart matters immensely to me and to the Lord.

Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him.  
God is a refuge for us.”  
~Psalm 62:8

With More Love Than You Could Hold In A Thousand Hobnail Cups,
Rachel 


Thursday, July 31, 2014

more good things


1.  Though it is plainly summer in Connecticut, it is not 105 degrees.  This makes me happy, because I am an angry person when I'm uncomfortable.  Being sweaty immediately upon exiting the shower?  Uncomfortable, therefore angry.  Sitting outside in 80ish degrees with a breeze?  Lovely, and not angry.

2.  I was unreasonably afraid that our house would be hot all summer.  It is pleasantly, surprisingly cool, and I am thankful!

3. There are 4 huge old trees in our front yard... lots of shade, low branches for climbing, and stunning shadows and light coming through the leaves.  I love the quiet rush of the wind coming through the limbs. I love watching my children gain confidence as they scramble to new heights and overcome their fear as they climb back down.


4.  Matt and I hung twinkle lights across the front yard... they make me happy. 

5.  Julia doesn't hate fireworks and sparklers anymore- she enjoys the crashing and crackling, the flashes of color, the heavy smoke spreading across the lawn.  There's more growth and development in just that sentence than I can describe, so you have to believe me.  It's a big deal.
this picture is blurry because she is in motion. when she loves something, she shows it with her whole being.


6.  We visited New York City briefly this month, and of all the fun we had visiting Uncle Alex, Aunt Jessie, Cousin Hadley,  Mimi, and Auggie Dog (not to mention the views of the Hudson, the WTC, the Statue of Liberty, and a trip to the Museum of Natural History), my favorite part of the weekend is this:  Jessie miraculously and unknowingly got our children to eat the same kind of chicken. Not two separate meals- just one. This is also a big deal.  You are winning all the things right now, Jessie.

7.  Actually, I really enjoyed NYC, what little we were able to cover in 28ish hours!  The little pocket parks between buildings and the huge numbers of families playing out on the lawn by the river create such a different kind of community within the larger city... fascinating to this suburban girl.  I look forward to staying a bit longer, seeing more of the city, maybe babysitting that cute baby so her parents can go out. Yes, the miracle of the chicken has merited babysitting.  It's that huge.

8.  I got the laundry clean and the airplane snacks made before midnight the night before we leave town... you might not think this is noteworthy, but I manage to procrastinate prepping and packing for travel until the wee hours. I'm so far ahead of my usual self I may pour a drink... sit down... ignore the fact that nothing is actually in suitcases yet.  

9.  We have church outdoors in the summer.  While not everything about this is perfect, I am enjoying these aspects:  dewy grass, friends on picnic blankets and folding chairs, rustling leaves, laughing children chasing each other across the yard, voices carried off by the wind as we sing and pray together. 


10.  There are blackberries growing across the yard- planted by someone else I'm not sure how long ago.  Watching the branches flower, push through into tiny green clusters, and now deepen from green to red to black has been so sweet this summer.  They will probably fully ripen while we are away, and I like to imagine our friends getting to enjoy them with their families.  Why do blackberries mean gathering together to me?  They just don't seem like a solitary fruit- certainly not meant to be consumed hurriedly or privately.  


11.  I have decided to read more about blackberry cultivation.  There will be more of these next year, mark my words.

12.  We have several more weeks of summer vacation, and many of our planned adventures and hoped for projects still to fulfill. 







Tuesday, July 29, 2014

where i sit...

Some thoughts about where i sit, and write, and read... 
and waste time on Facebook.

 90% of the people who read this are my blood relatives.  8% of the remaining handful are in my church.  So for the 2% who don't know this already, our family lives in the manse on the property of our church-
Living in a manse is similar to renting, but then not very much like renting at all.  
It's the same in that we choose carefully how much money to put into the 
home ourselves.
 Window treatments & light fixtures= yes. 
Hardwood floors & kitchen cabinets=no. 
 It's different in this:  caring for this home is also caring for our church, which we love.  Updating and maintaining a piece of the church= yes. (And i'm pretty sure i'll get messages from the trustees about this... We are happy, y'all!  I promise!  No need to panic! : )

SOOOOOO much painting was done before we moved here.  I am more thankful now than when i first moved in because i see how much work it was!  Service is my biggest love language, and often the hardest for me to accept.  
I feel loved by my painted walls. 
There was a tiny room that i didn't know how to use before we moved in, and it became my dumping grounds and bill paying space.  As we unpacked, settled rooms, and got rid of furniture that wasn't a fit for this space,
 this became my office. 
Not a place of business, but a workspace.  
And then i wanted to make it pretty, because pretty matters.  
Not perfect, not fancy, just a lovely little spot- 
a welcoming room.

This tiny room had a former life as a nursery, i believe.  Hence the pink paint.  The pink & brown is *actually* prettier than these pictures show, but the colors didn't work for my purposes.  
This picture was from when we visited in December... 
the day before we knew we would be moving here!

You can see the color slightly better here as i began to paint it...

And here it is now:

Walls and ceiling are painted Topsail, by Sherwin Williams.  It's my go-to pale blue, and I use it in my kitchen and mudroom as well.  I won't lie... there were 2 almost full gallons of this in the basement, so I wasn't about to spend $30 on a new can of paint!  I'm super classy, so i mixed the remainder of the satin and semi-gloss cans together to make sure i wouldn't run out.  

 You can't see them well, but on the floor I have two vintage tool boxes.  One has real tools in it (such as my hot glue gun- surprise!), and the other has stationary and cards.  

Those wooden plaques from the craft store make easy photo displays... sometimes I have the girls' artwork up there, sometimes an important word or verse.  Hot glue a clothespin onto a piece of wood- it's as simple as that.


 Painting all that brown wainscoting white took DAYS, so I'm waiting for inspiration before tackling the built-in desk/closet/shelf.  
I'm open to color suggestions on this one...


 My favorite piece:
 if you can't read it, the quote is this:
Woman's Sphere
They talk about a woman's sphere
As tho' it had a limit-
There's not a place in Earth of Heaven,
There's not a task to mankind given, 
There's not a blessing or a woe,
There's not a whispered yes or no,
There's not a life, or death, or birth, 
That has a feather's weight of worth-
Without a woman in it. 
-M. Walker 

My second favorite piece is this lamp... it's huge & obnoxiously girly, and I went back to the antique mall three times before i decided to buy it. 



The latest addition to my favorite things is this card from a cherished friend... 
Bloom Where You Are Planted, indeed.


So this is where I am.  
A nice place to bloom, I think. 




Thursday, July 24, 2014

how and why

this is a story of an important moment.  it is one i'm ashamed to share, but i'm burdened to write.  i would love to know if you have similar moments- ones that shape your interaction with others forever after. 

do you ever know something is wrong, but maybe not why or how it is wrong?  

i knew the rules of the carpool line...  i knew it was a huge pain in my rear end.
i knew that only 6 cars could fit in the actual pick up zone.
i knew that usually only 5 would make it in the zone before dismissal because that gray minivan would get there 30 minutes early and not pull up all the way.
i knew that it was best for me to park down the street and walk to the classroom door, thus avoiding the carpool line altogether.
i knew that if i didn't get to Caroline's school 10 minutes early that i'd be 5 minutes late to get across town to Julia's school.
i knew it every day for almost a year.

i knew (only very recently) that julia was on the autism spectrum.
i barely knew what autism was, only that it is not what i had previously assumed from movies and television.
i knew very little.
i knew that julia had an exceptionally hard time at dismissal if i wasn't one of the first to arrive.
i knew she couldn't tell me what was bothering her- she didn't have the words, and she may not have the understanding of what she felt even if the words were easily accessible.

i just knew i needed to be there on time, and i knew i was late.

i knew that parking in designated 'handicapped permit only' spots is illegal.  there were two of these right in front of the school- right by the carpool line- right by julia's classroom.

as i pulled into line behind 10 other cars (remember, only 5 in the pickup zone at a time!!), i could see her melting down.  falling.  sobbing.  

was it the chaos of the end of the day routine?  
was it the kids shouting and moving in all directions,
moms laughing with each other as their kids came pouring out the door?  
was it that end of day tiredness of a 
4 year old who wasn't getting the nap her body still needed?  
was it all the things i didn't know to pull from her diet?  
was it something else i wasn't doing for her?


i didn't know.  my head was spinning with not knowing.
i did know i would only be in that handicapped spot for 2 minutes.
i knew i shouldn't, but i didn't really know why.  

i pulled into the second blue-lined spot a little crooked- a lot crooked, actually- an oversized SUV doesn't easily maneuver past the carpool line and into that front row parking.  i jumped out next to a van with a wheelchair lift on the back.
i didn't notice.  
all i saw was my baby screaming.



all he saw was 'THAT mom.' 
he knew who i was, stepping out in my suburban mom uniform- black yoga pants, college t-shirt, oversized sunglasses.
he knew that i was THAT woman- the one who didn't have a sticker or placard to declare my need for this parking space.
he knew i didn't have a disabled child, and therefore shouldn't be there.
he knew i wasn't the parent of a child in a wheelchair- i wasn't in his shoes.
he knew someone like me was in this designated parking spot 9 out of 10 times he came to the school to pick up his son.

he saw me, and he saw red.
he spoke loud, angry words- gesturing and shouting as he grabbed his phone to call the police.

i looked over at julia on the ground by the school, and i murmured a half-coherent apology to the man.
i climbed back into my crooked behemoth and drove down the block.  
i held myself together as i jog-walked with caroline back to the school. 
the carpool line all but empty now. 
julia lay exhausted on the ground, dirt stuck in the tears and snot on her cheeks.
caroline asked why that man yelled at me.
the teachers asked if everything was okay.

and i knew.
i knew he was right.

though i fought it for several hours after- my gut aching, my tears close to the surface, feeling indignant and ashamed by turns- i still knew he had a right to be angry.  
that place was a convenience for me; it was a necessity for his son.  
his son- the one with the enormous smile, floppy blonde hair, and the shiny red wheelchair- he needed that close parking space.  
his son- the one with the life altering illness, unpredictable seizures, and exhausted, frightened parents- i was making the afternoon longer and more difficult for him, possibly threatening his health.
he is the 'why' in 'i didn't know why i shouldn't.'  
he is the 'how' in 'i didn't know how wrong it was.'

illegal parking aside...  now i know the boy, and i know the how and why.

and i imagine a better scene, of course... where i pull into that spot next to him and he comes over with his son.  
where we introduce ourselves and our children.  
where we find out that they share special education teachers & therapy groups. where we discover that she holds his hand during their ABA circle time.  
where he shows me the how and the why- 
how if he can't park there, his son can't physically get onto the wheelchair lift. 
why my taking that place hurts his family. 

where he has 1000 times more patience than any parent possibly could because he has been in this situation every day of his son's life.

i know i can't put that on him.  

i'm just sorry.  
i wish i could tell him how profoundly that interaction has affected me, and how changed i am because i met him, angry as he was.
how often i think of him and his son.   

what i know now:
if i can make that kind of decision, justifying a behavior i know is wrong...
if i can blindly hurt someone else when all i was focused on helping my child...
if i can be the one making someone else's day that much harder...

i know i also need to be the one to take responsibility- "i'm so sorry.  i know i was wrong. i won't do it again. please forgive me."

i know to have more patience when others do the same to me- "here's the how and the why of what just happened here. i know you didn't know. i forgive you."

i know to look up from my own need, my own circumstances- to consider those around me. to notice something other than myself.  "i see you.  i don't know what it's like in your life, but i would like to try."