Every season in nature has themes. Time of springing forth new life, rapid growth, or weathering storms, preparing for the cold of winter. Brandon and I have been feeling for a while a necessity to have a season of slowing it down, getting back to our roots and examining our family’s needs… and we’re feeling the urgent need for that kind of season lately. Its probably normal after walking through a tragedy, and facing pain head-on, to want to slam on the brakes and slow life down. Our girls need it. They need a greenhouse of safety and routine. They need their little cups filled with love, attention from Mom and Dad, and quality time together.
We have been back into our homeschool routine, we have a lot of catching up to do, but at times we just cannot speed ahead full bore, so we are taking it slow most days. We are allowing ourselves time to push work aside, and get outside for some adventure and laughter. We are carving out time for imaginations to run wild, and to find immense joy in our days. The girls have been hurt, scared, and broken, so it is now our responsibility to comfort them, assure them, pour love over them, and protect them as best we can. Sometimes that looks like getting away for a day. Sometimes that looks like cuddling up on the sofa with a blanket and a warm fire and smothering them with kisses. Sometimes that looks like letting them put on a show as we clap and applaud their entertaining performances. Sometimes that is dance parties in the living room, or races in the front yard. It is slow hugs, sweet prayers, and lingering in the moments. They are teaching us a lot about our family, about our goals and dreams for the future. This is a good season, a lovely season of digging down deep and slowing down the the days.
We moved back home… after a couple of months of leaving our little home to move in with Mom and Dad and help take care of her and spend as much time as possible with her, we moved back home. We came home to an empty house… we had taken time to decorate it with our Christmas decorations. Our lights hung on the house, our tree shown from the window, and our mantel had 6 little stockings hanging from it (5 + 1 for the doggies). But it was cold. We don’t have central heat, we heat our home with our wood stove, and without living in the house, we were never able to heat it up. I would drop in some days to start a fire and do some chores, but 24 hours later, the house was freezing again. Without someone living here, there was no way we could keep it comfortably warm. We came home, tired, worn thin, as if from a war– an emotional, spiritual war that left us tired to our bones. It was quiet. We no longer heard the rythymn of an oxygen machine setting the pace to our day, no more nurses visiting, no more girls giggling as they fought their way to the lotion and RooRoo’s feet.. our house was stark in comparison to the past few months. It was lonely. It was a reminder of the difficult days this summer brought, the late night tears, the cries of our heart for Mom. We had to come home and pick up the pieces, walk forward in healing our brokenness, and move forward through our pain and sadness. Make our home a home that we know Mom won’t come knocking on our door ever again, but a home that we can remember and honor her in. A home that we can make these new memories in with Dad and family, together in grief, but together none-the-less.
But in this home we are processing the irony of coming home to a cold, empty, sad home. Because Mom got a glorious reward in all this.
Mom went home too. But her home was prepared ahead of time for her coming… She didn’t have to worry about heating it up, that was already done. There was no false illusion of beautiful lights on the outside, and a cold, empty place on the inside. No, not in the Kingdom. Jesus prepared it for her, just for Mom. Mom– completely full of sin, broken, beaten down, hurting, suffering, but redeemed and washed clean, got to take off her damaged and failing body, and put on a new one, prepared just for her and free of all the disappointment and battle scars she was burdened with here. See, Mom was “buried in brokenness, but [she was} raised in glory. [She was] buried in weakness, but [she was] raised in strength.” (1 Cor. 15:43) Mom cashed in on her inheritance that morning a couple weeks ago… its an inheritance that us here left behind missing her have yet to receive. Its waiting for us, we know what we have to look forward to, and that assurance it more real now that it has ever been before. When our days here come to an end, and we get to go home, we know what that home will be… a warm heavenly home, prepared ahead of time by our Savior, Christ the King, who sits on His throne, prepared, and has made a way for each and every person to receive this promise, if they choose. Mom chose. She chose her inheritance. She is now experiencing the fullness of the hope we all have in Christ.
Going home is difficult for us who miss her. But for Mom, oh wow, the glory of going home for her is something I can’t even imagine, the beauty, the awesomeness, the wholeness, and the richness that fills her now. And so, in this pain, we are grateful for the memories made, for the stories shared, and the legacy she left for us to enjoy.
My girls have hurt more in the past month than I have ever seen them hurt in their whole lives. Yes, they may be young, but their hearts are big, their love is big, and their relationship with their RooRoo is big. So their pain is big.
They burst into tears with no warning. They weep on our shoulders. They scream out in the middle of the night. They sob and plead with God in their prayers.
Its simple for them, they are face to face with loss. They are staring at the simple ugliness of it, its devastation, and its piercing hurt. They are watching adults deal with things they don’t understand. They are watching their precious RooRoo fight for her life.
But they are shining in midst of this darkness. I have seen them rise up from their pain. They think of a new idea each day to bless their RooRoo. Some days its coloring a picture with her, or for her. Some days its brushing her hair and putting silly clips and pigtails in it. Selfies and laughter replace worries and tears. They rub lotion on her feet, they massage her arms and legs. They fold and put away laundry. They hand knit bracelets and necklaces. They are serving and giving in the middle of their anguish and its helping to heal the pain. They are finding beauty in the pain of life right now. It is a beautiful time. They hug each other and comfort one another. They put their hands on our backs to show love and encouragement. They lay hands on us and pray for joy. They kiss, they hug, they laugh, they serve. They are beautiful. The love they show is the beauty within the pain.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuinenessof your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:6-7
I am going to do my best to share my heart, with upmost respect.
Sometimes life takes a turn, comes crashing down, and speeds 100mph toward a stone wall. I remember coming home from school my senior year of high school to a note on the counter and a message on the answering machine of our house phone… the start of a frightening turn in life. Within a week my mom sat me down and spoke words to me that must have been agonizingly difficult. Cancer. My dad. Stage 4. Terminal. 6 months. Every bone. Nothing doctors could do.
The pain, the grief, the confusion, the fear took over. Now, they are a faint memory most days for me, the stronger memories revolve around the time I spent by my Dad’s bedside, our conversations, the day I heard his last breath, the family who surrounded us in those weeks, my friends who held me up when I couldn’t hold myself up. Those are the memories I tend to think about.
Until life takes another turn.
When the word cancer is said again and it brings up all the fear, the pain, and the agony of 15 years ago, its shocking how when you think you have healed and moved on, it can still come rushing back in an instant.
Only the last time I felt those things, I was not a Christian… I didn’t have the Lord to fall back on for comfort. This time I do. And this time, while those things are still real and normal feelings, I can see how God is navigating through the confusion, using the pain, and erasing the fear.
Its been a summer of seeing God’s hand upon our family. I can look back and see the big breath of grace that we took before we knew officially ‘its cancer’. I can see how we needed that big breath, how it prepared our hearts to stand firm, to hug strongly, to love deeply, and to fight like we have never fought before. Grief can rip people apart, tear families away from each other, and strip people of their joy. It can. But I can see how this summer, it mended us, it brought people closer, and it gave us a reason to run towards joy.
Its been two months exactly since this turn began. I have cried most days. I warn people now, “I might cry, so be ready”. Sometimes I have cried out of anguish or concern, but other times I have cried tears of thankfulness, or relief. The tears are literally the Holy Spirit speaking as they fall down my face, washing away my pain, or ushering in gratefulness.
God is moving. His goodness toward our family has been overwhelmingly and incredible. From people’s prayers, their generosity, their kindness, servanthood, their grace, and love, our family has felt cared for, and we have not been alone in this. I have seen Mom rise up and be able to stand, and fight because she is lifted up by all this love shown to her, God has given her a peace that transcends all understanding, and given strength to her soul. This time, this turn, its on Christ we have set our hope.
Now begins something beautiful.
My sweet firstborn. She is brave. She is smart. She is strong. Shiloh has and always will push me and test me and force me to be better. The day she was born and she placed on my chest, she forced my heart open and in an instant, I was hers to sharpen.
As much as I soaked up any advice from other moms, books, or articles… it was in the nitty gritty of the daily diaper changes, the rigors of sleeping and nursing her (sometimes simultaneously), and then seeing her bravely exploring the world around her, it was in those moments that she grew me into a mom. Each new milestone challenged me. Each year, new challenges became milestones.
And now, I sit in my home, watching her during her school time, and I realize she is sharpening me still. Capri and Leilani do also, but not in the same way. There is something uniquely mysterious to parenting Shiloh through each day. As the oldest, I have noticed she is the daughter who leads me down new adventures in parenting. I do not know what to expect. I can not predict based on experience what her next big milestone will be. She is unchartered territory. She holds so many of my firsts, and promises to give me many more firsts in the future.
As I watch her, and reflect on this, I realize how big my heart has grown. My heart is ready to burst open with how much love I have for her this day. I watch her read. I listen to her stumble through big words and giggle when they don’t sound right. We can laugh with each other because we have the same sense of humor. She sharpens me as she works through her math assignments. To witness her struggle and have to persevere through frustration and tears, brings me to new places of dependence on God. I do not have all the answers and I do not have any practice in parenting a six year old. So I find my prayers for her to be filled with utter submission and a cry out for God to guide me and give me wisdom.
But this little lady, my firstborn daughter is a treasure. I am so proud of her, and proud of the little woman she is becoming, the sister she is, and the pure reflection of God’s wonder that she has always been. And today, I am a little bit sharper because of her.