When a disease moves in, the whole household is rearranged.
And a tough girl will fight it and push it and kick at it and work hard to keep it outside on the front porch where she can keep the door closed and hit the deadbolt when the intruder gets too unruly.
But diseases don’t have house manners, so Hashimoto’s has moved right in and brought her friend hypothyroidism with her, and they’ve taken up residence and settled into their own wing, and after almost a year of Delores the Thyroid paying her rent in mood swings and thinning hair, we might maybe just now be getting used to this new ugly roommate.
And do you know what happens when you have an unruly house guest who won’t go away and who doesn’t want to follow the rules?
You finally get tired of being polite and trying to figure out how to deal with their behaviors in a quiet and civilized manner, and you get assertive and you learn how to stick up for yourself and the people you live with and love with, and after enough time goes by and your guest is still being uncooperative, one day you take your life back and you tell her that you’re not going to put up with her shit any longer.
So all this summer I’ve worked hard at keeping Delores in her room until she learns to behave, and on those rare days she kicks down her door and comes to interrupt our days, I’ve learned that the best way to handle her is to sit around cozy and comfortable and curled up with my people while we laugh at her antics.
Ten months ago I could barely drag out of bed and couldn’t wait to get back to it at night.
Ten months ago I had so much anger in my heart I hardly knew myself.
Ten months ago my joints hurt so bad I could barely lift my arms or bend my fingers or my knees.
Ten months ago I had no joy, no care, no understanding of what was the matter with me or any idea of how long it had been going on.
My houseguest had crept in without me even knowing, and all I could do was just keep pushing, keep doing what needed to be done, and keep focusing only on the absolute essentials.
Today, I can focus on the good.
I can see the the beautiful.
I can find the peace.
Today, I still sometimes drag out of bed, but I can face the days. I am no longer slugging through, but actually beginning to EMBRACE the moments. I am starting to look forward to things again instead of just dreading.
Today, the anger is replaced by patience, and when irritation does rear its ugly head, it is short lived and doesn’t possess my whole being like it once did.
Today when my joints hurt I know it’s because it’s time for a med adjustment or because I’ve eaten something that does not agree with my disease. I don’t hurt all the time anymore.
I still have hurts.
But every day they are less, and I’ve hiked three whole times this summer and I’ve been able to ditch the 3 pm thyroid nap and I’ve listened to my body, and as I keep working toward kicking Delores out for good –or at least banishing her to the outhouse– I can see the beauty and the good and I can keep my focus on peace.
So today I hopped in a canoe and I paddled. And when the kids bickered from their own little boat I told them to quit ruining the moment and I picked a spot on the horizon that was beautiful and I hunkered down against the wind of the day and I prayed and I headed toward the peace…
and I was paddling.
When my muscles warmed I was so happy that I was able to use them without feeling stabbing pain.
And when the wind blew me sideways I was so thankful to have the strength and the focus to put my canoe right.
And when my calves wanted to cramp, I was so tickled to realize my awkward body was in a position I had yearned to try in yoga class not too long ago.
Today, I realized that I’ve gained some things since battling hypothyroidism, and not just extra weight.
I’ve gained confidence.
The ability to laugh at myself.
Patience for others.
I realized that life…our faith…is just like my canoe ride today.
Choppy. Awkward. Full of cramps.
But so beautiful.
Intertwined with the Creator.
So I kept paddling.
And every day as I battle this new season of life…or you fight struggles or job loss or pain or a nasty new roommate of your own…remember we have the power to not let it ruin our moment here…and we’ll pick a spot on the horizon that is beautiful, and we’ll hunker down against the wind of our day…
And we’ll keep paddling toward peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
It’s been a year already since he laid his big strong body down and how do 365 days go by seeming like it’s been both just a week and a lifetime?
I started a list on my iPhone of all the things that went haywire beginning with the day my old truck quit running.
It was going to be the list that reminded me how strong our family was and how gracefully we overcame adversity.
Then the pony died that spring Monday morning, and I realized that life can sometimes knock a gal out at the knees and that keeping track of adversity wasn’t as important as I thought it was.
That gracefulness comes quietly in the fight and isn’t something that can be measured.
Because it all just kept coming and since the Garden, isn’t that what life really is anyway?
One big adversity?
One long, unmeasurable struggle.
Those you thought were your friends betray you.
Those you know are your friends face death straight in the face.
Your body quits working as it should and life as you know it is altered by silent sickness.
Neighbors are not neighborly.
The peaceful plans you dream of and hope for and pray over are riddled with twists and turns and paths that keep you pining for the flatter trail that doesn’t trip you up.
The news brings heartache daily til the day it all seems the same.
A planet aching.
The day last month that my big little horse started limping, I did what I’ve done every time one of the minis has gotten any little ailment these past twelve months.
I worried and I fret and I flashed back to the cold nights in the barn when we willed our big boy to keep standing and keep fighting in those hours before we knew he’d given us his all and had to finally lie down and leave us.
It’s a year later and the same time of the month that he got sick when our mini starts to slow down and look uncomfortable. It must be the season. It must be something about our farm in the spring.
It must be something I’m doing wrong and I worry as I go to a boring meeting and remember the boring meeting I was sitting in last year when my daughter called to get me coming home to her and her very sick pony.
He was a horse not a person but I will always grieve the loss of him like I would a best friend or a member of this family.
Because he was.
It was our first time losing a horse and the pain of it was enough to make me think of letting my other two go to another farm so we’d never have to deal with that kind of loss ever again.
That thought was short-lived because I know they belong with us and they belong together, but as I watch my mini’s coat dull and I take the weight tape to her and see she’s dropped fifteen pounds, it makes me choke back a sob as I think of our big pony standing noble and quiet in the barn last year with his dull coat and thin neck.
A whole year feels like yesterday when I start calling the people I know to call and text video clips of my little horse limping, and as soon as he’s back in town, my farrier is here to trim up her feet and he reminds me yet again that I shouldn’t worry so, that this horse came to us with a condition that will always cause her to have troublesome feet in cold weather and the changing of seasons.
He reminds me that I’ll always have to watch her sugar intake and that the good nourishment I was giving her to help her weight and her coat might be too much, and that cutting back just a little will tell me for sure.
And he reminds me gently that this horse isn’t the same horse as the horse we lost.
That every ailment isn’t worst case scenario.
That even though my mind and my heart go back to the loss, this horse won’t die from sore feet.
That the love on our farm is big and goes a long way toward keeping our animals healthy and me and the kids learning.
He reminds me how much we love.
Struggles will come but love covers a multitude, and it is patient and it is kind, and it protects and trusts and hopes, and it always, always perseveres.
I quit making a list this year and instead made myself persevere.
Made myself love.
God knows my faith has been quiet but that it is strong and it is persevering.
Have you been quiet in your faith?
Have you had doubts? Struggles? Adversity?
He knows when our love is true and trusting and even though it may not be loud, He knows when it is there.
A trauma, a loss, a year of battles one after another can knock out strong knees, but on our knees is best because He so loved the world, He so loved me and He so loved you, and love will.never.fail.
The disappointments of yesterday melt in the face of the love that dwells in the rough-hewn wood of this strong house.
The crushing weight of sorrow for friends fighting a too-hard war lightens as they raise their hands to glory and love all they touch.
The unending pain of the planet and her people are held, because in Him all things hold together.
My little horse began to move smoother after her foot trim, and as the sun came out and spring moved onto our farm, I’d see her napping on all fours instead of lying down to get off her feet.
Her head would bob and her top lip quiver as she soaked up the fresh air and healing rays of sunshine after our long cold winter.
She wasn’t going to die like our pony did.
And today, the exact day he left us last year, I pulled my little gal out and marveled at how much better she was looking.
I smiled at her yellow-white mane and tail as she walked across the yard, a happy sparkle in her eye as she tried to find just one green blade of grass.
I thought of how much I love these little horses and how much we’ve gone through on the farm this year.
How much those close to us have endured.
How much our world has changed.
How much we are loved in the midst of it all.
And as I was watching her walk beside my daughter, my girl who said goodbye to her best equine friend too soon exactly one year ago, a peace washed over me that assured me that not only was my little horse going to be fine but so was everything else.
Those things I can control…those things I can’t…those battles friends fight…those injustices that plague so many…
Because He said it…because He loves…
We are assured that even in the evils and the sadness and the pain He will never leave us.
He will take the quiet faith, the wavering faith, the tentative faith, and He will grow it louder and steadier and surer, whether through sunny seasons or through sorrow seasons.
My peace grew strong and I thought of our pony gone a year, and I tucked up his memory into my heart once again where it now always lives, and I watch my girl walk my big mini back toward the pen.
And just before she got there, our little red pony hopped a little hop on her once-sore feet and she kicked up her heels and she tossed her mane…
And then she started to trot.
In memory of all the ponies and all the horses who have left this earth too soon. Your trust and service and faithfulness are twisted up into the hearts of the many who have loved you and will miss you all the days of their lives.
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:8-10
He said Come unto Me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.
He didn’t say Come every Wednesday or Come unto me even though you’re exhausted or Come unto me or else we won’t be friends anymore.
He said Come unto me all you who are weary…
And they don’t tell you in the pregnancy books that there comes a time, way past the first roll-over time, way past the sitting up time, way past the solid foods time, and wayyy past the first-steps time…
There comes a time when it seems a little like it did when there were babies in the house, and a little like it did when there were toddlers in the house…
But it’s all a little bit different and a little bit bigger.
Because they’re bigger.
You should be tougher but you don’t feel much tougher.
In fact, when you talk to mamas just a wee bit older than you, you might whisper it to them quiet and confidentially and maybe even with a hint of a doubt in your tone while you secretly hope that maybe they’ll understand.
You really hope they’ll nod knowingly and that they won’t tell you that you’re wrong. You hope they’ll hug you and say OH HONEY YES.
It’s harder than it was.
It’s just a different hard.
You feel somehow weaker than you did even though you never ever thought you’d feel weaker and more vulnerable than you did with no sleep and no makeup and milk streaming down your chest and soaking through your shirt and onto your mattress and into your days while the beautiful baby just screamed and screamed and constantly needed a new diaper.
And that just seems so wrong because they sleep all night now, a long teenager’s sleep late into the morning for their growing bodies if your day can spare it, so a full eight or nine is your delight, and most mornings even a leisurely cup of coffee is yours before they arise…and they do work now, real work that makes yours easier.
But they take more of you now.
More mind muscle. More money. More miles.
They take up more space.
In your house.
In your head.
In your heart.
There are more of them and they are bigger and it’s just all bigger and a little more overwhelming but you’re older now and wiser now so you handle it better but handling it better makes you tired sometimes and it’s a different kind of tired.
And sometimes coming unto me looks a lot different than what a mama thought it would way back when they still napped in the middle of the day and still needed you to buckle them into their car seat.
A quiet time isn’t
always ever a quiet time, and me-time doesn’t work and long ago when they were toddlers I cut out a magazine piece that said me-time comes when the babies are grown and now that mine are almost there I see.
I see how it is that I don’t really feel like taking that me-time anymore unless they force me, and now that more than two of them fill a room while college and jobs and future fill their horizon…
I’m glad my me-time revolves around them.
It means saying no sometimes.
It means that I actually had more time for friends when my babies were babies and we could all get together over diapers and coffee and Cheerios and Boppies.
It means that pulling in to them instead of pulling away needs to be my daily priority.
It means that I may lose outside opportunities in order to stay inside the circle of these years.
It means that my growth might actually be watching them grow and that is what my job is right now.
It means that I might have to work through the new ages and stages and grow right along with them.
It means that I might be lacking for folks outside of here and seem shallow when in truth, I’m growing deeper and broader in my care and attention.
But a mama still needs come unto me and thankfully, He stands and He knocks, and what a comfort…what.a.comfort. to know He’s there.
That He is always there.
That when my quiet time is driving-down-the-road time, He doesn’t abandon.
That when I’m extra busy or frazzled or full, He doesn’t condemn.
That when I forget, He doesn’t write me off.
He gently prods.
That when I’m exhausted, He doesn’t shame.
That He loves.
That He forgives.
That He encourages.
That He holds.
That He stays.
And that unlike this time that rushes…that goes…that hurries…
He still says come unto me and when I’m weary and when I’m burdened and when I’m heavy laden…
He doesn’t pressure but He waits.
And He gives rest for my soul.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains
Your love never fails and never gives up it never runs out on me…your love…it’s your love…
On and one and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains
In death and in life I’m confident and covered by the power of your great love
My debt is paid there’s nothing that can separate my heart from your great love
Your love never fails and never gives up it never runs out on me…your love…it’s your love…God it’s your love.
In a season that catches by surprise, I’ve come to anticipate the unexpected.
Four kids fill this house and this calendar and these rooms…
and the minds and the lives and the hearts of their parents.
Critters live and critters die, and sometimes it comes by way of sudden chirping from the woods when a nest of nine stumbles and weaves behind mama turkey, and sometimes it comes by way of the quiet death of a loud guinea or the noble fight and fall of a beloved pony.
“Moment by moment” round here is never an exaggeration.
But what’s never expected is the cold stare from one who was once a warm friend.
What catches by surprise and catches in the throat are the words stuck that stream through quiet moments and that are outlined with bold strokes of anger and frustration but mostly just scream Why?? When?? I thought we were friends??
And a rejection like that can make a mama pull in and pull close and focus on just the ones around her, the ones she knows for sure love her.
Making friends never gets easier does it?
And down deep, isn’t there always that little girl who lives inside of us? That first grader in a room full of new classmates who’s standing there awkward when she realizes she’s tied the back of her dress up into her waistband while she shifts from foot to foot at the front of the classroom with her underwear and tights all exposed to the world?
Don’t the bruises get blacker when a soul gets older?
And when the demands are so great a big gal feels small and sometimes has a hard time breathing let alone doing anything extra, a mama can only just bear down and push through the cramp and know she’s doing what she was meant to do in this moment: deliver these babies out into the world.
She’ll keep pushing and she’ll keep grunting and she’ll try not to swear even though she might yell out during the especially hard parts.
She didn’t know it’d be like this over a dozen years after they were born.
And sometimes just the day to day can be enough to make us keep things shy and reserved and holding the heart close to the chest and the real feelings tight in the pocket.
Enough of the keeping it tight can make us keep it closed and before we know it, we’ve holed ourselves up while we tell ourselves we’re just in a quiet season of bearing down.
And then the real unexpected…
The exceptional unexpected.
The beautiful unexpected.
The unexpected gift of the unexpected time of an unexpected dinner with a couple from church, two souls just ahead on the sidewalk, and all the unexpected tears and laughter that come from that kind of unexpected encounter.
How the path we’re walking is so very familiar to them.
How the struggles we wrestle are ones they’ve conquered.
How the unexpected keeps on into the empty nest years.
How the unexpected keeps on…
My heart carries the day this month that we drove to the place where we sailed to the spot…
that gate where three seas meet, -just past the sanctuary for mariners- and the wind blew fierce and the waves pounded hard and how could I not feel God hold me there in that spot where warm tears of praise slipped down cold cheeks of wonder?
The whales of September came by surprise and Native founders sailed those waters on kayaks and I sailed them with my children who stood bravely against the gusts and they braced themselves to the threat and they laughed into the wind because they are young and they trust their father and their mother, but they especially trust the One who made the skies.
The joy we’ve had this month can be lost in the hard of this month and the hard of lost friendship and the hard of this life…
but when I focus on the good…when I fix my eyes on the pure…the hard isn’t so hard and the good is pure joy.
The unexpected moments from the unexpected trip that grew my babies and grew my mama and that grew me.
The unexpected victories that taught us that sometimes a person will win when they practice hard but that sometimes even hard practice won’t win, and that that’s okay too.
The unexpected setbacks that taught us that sometimes a plan needs a bit more time and a bit more stitching before it becomes a whole quilt.
The unexpected friends that came with what could’ve been a tight and tough competition but instead turned into a tight and tender time.
All the unexpected.
How the unexpected keeps on…
And then, just as a mama might start to come out of her September shell and decide rejection won’t keep her because she’s already accepted by the One who made her and Who holds her…
a routine night at church brings the unexpected, a gift, a sweet out-of-the-blue message and warm watery eyes from a new friend who is trailing just behind on the parenting sidewalk, and she might think it a small gift…
but it is bigger than that.
It makes me think of you she tells me.
And I tear up some because I don’t know her that well yet but still she thought of me, and by thinking of me she didn’t reject me, and by not rejecting me she reminds me that even when the world is cold and some people are cold, we really are each other’s keeper and we needn’t be cold back because if we are…if we close ourselves off and make ourselves cold…
we won’t ever make this planet warmer.
How the unexpected keeps on…
So I squeeze her once because her gift is so precious.
I stare at it for a second and see how perfect it is and how sweet the words are, and she smiles and I smile and then I squeeze her again because I’m so touched at her gift and how it is straight from her heart.
And so very unexpected.
Captivated by Your beauty
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You
In the Glory of Your Presence
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You
I love life.
I love OUR life.
I especially love babies and old folks and watching children smile as they grow into the huge hearts they carry in their small chests.
Sometimes, amid the work and the bustle of this house and this farm and the daily everything that gets in the way of peace, I’ll remember…
to live IS peace.
This life is peace.
The air, the sunshine, the animals, the people…this world, crazy as it is…as sad as it can sometimes be…it was made by the One who speaks peace and who gives peace, and because of that, when we’re with Him, we HAVE peace.
And when people are sometimes mean and friends can make your chin quiver and the news can crush a soul…
forgetting peace is easy to do.
But when we look, won’t we find it?
Those few words while hiding from the world in the bathroom stall…those Psalms that wash over a soul and change the breathing and change a spirit in just the few quiet minutes it takes to read them.
Those smiles that come with the bright from a sunny morning when just the day before it was dreary.
Those screams that can sometimes pierce the ears but when you fine tune the speaker they remind you of the joyful and fleeting days of childhood and youth.
Those voices from strong men growing stronger as they sing in their bass and baritones and prop their brothers up.
Those warm minutes just before sunrise when the blankets envelop and there’s one beside you breathing deeply.
People can sometimes be hard and life can sometimes be hard but aren’t we all growing toward peace and isn’t every day a new chance at life?
We set it all aside and got ready for this weekend, this big weekend that had families red-faced and covered in glue and glitter and moms trying to make the best better for all those beautiful smart kids who were carrying all their little and big kid-pressure to perform well for their clubs and their judges…and somehow we all made it out alive and then the next day we all woke up and did it again, with just a little more fun and relaxed pep in our steps the second time around.
Big things are hard and sometimes little things are even harder but when we came home tired and smiling…
there was new life.
There was new life to remind us that hard things are worth it and when things are a little hard, or even a lot hard, time goes on and life goes on.
There was new life to remind us of what we’re really doing here and how there will always be hard things and even hard people, but if we keep our focus on the people in our homes and the critters in our care, and on the friends that walk the path alongside…and always on the One who gave them all to us…
life won’t be so hard.
We came home and watched as they came out of their shells, weak and struggling and gasping, trying to get legs strong enough to hold bodies upright.
They flop and they flail as they push through the hardness of their shell and the hardness of being born.
They lie breathless, resting and gulping until the next burst of strength.
They push on through each step and stage, life imprinted on their instincts, survival written into their cells.
New life brings joy.
New life brings smiles.
New life brings quiet and music and refreshment and hope.
And with it, new life always brings peace.
It is world cancer day. I won’t post one of those candle memes because there are plenty of those today.
What I WILL post is this:
Since walking through a cancer diagnosis, surgery, and radiation with my precious husband a year and a half ago, I know this: cancer changes people.
It changes lives.
It is a quiet evil that screams threats and fear and destruction.
It is a monolith of a word that takes your world and turns it upside down and the only things bigger than cancer when you’re walking with cancer…
are faith, hope and love.
And the greatest of these is love.
Yes, we can greet them with a smile.
Definitely greet them with a smile.
And a hug. And flowers. A meal or two. A letter now and then.
We can pray without ceasing
And we can give them a hand to hold.
Their faith may be bigger than cancer, but even with faith there are scary moments with cancer…
but the greatest of these is love…
and believe me, when love creeps into those middle-of-the-night moments and someone with cancer feels arms wrapped around him tight…
and she feels valued as a person and loved for who she is…
and seen for his beautiful strength and not for his disease…
there ain’t NO disease that can destroy that.
Cancer changed our lives and because it did, I carry a list of treasured names in my heart. Warriors every one. Some are gone but some fight on.
Will you add my list to yours and show them faith today?
Will you share your hope?
Will you pray without ceasing? For them, for their loved ones?
But most of all, will you give them love?
Until we find a cure…
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:1-8