Saturday, May 31, 2014

Living Someone Else's Dream

It's the first full day of summer, and I need to capture the feeling that it holds for me, before it changes.  It reminds me of when I was pregnant with my first child and everyone kept telling me I wouldn't remember what life before children was like, after I had children.  They were right.  It would never be the same again.

For the first time, a summer stretched out before me seems like a tremendous gift.  I've always looked forward to summers and all that they hold, but saw them less as a gift and something that simply was.  But, things are different now.  I'm standing at the brink of starting a new career and becoming a student again after fifteen years.  I may not have many or even one more non-working summer ahead.  I've also spent two days a week for the last nine weeks in the hospital doing my chaplain internship, mostly in the ER and day surgery, and I'm looking through a new set of glasses.

These glasses reveal the gifts of my life more than ever before.  My family has our health and we have time to spend together.  We get to choose what we want to do next.  Our only limitations are money and a lack of imagination.  Our biggest cross is boredom.  We did not just lose a baby who died in the middle of the night.  We are not bound by a chemotherapy or dialysis schedule.  We do not have to scour labels for gluten, or fear diabetic coma because we had cake and ice cream at a birthday party.  We do not struggle with chronic pain or anxiety.  We are not suffering from homelessness, hunger, loneliness, or addiction.  We don't have gall stones, kidney stones, or infections of any kind.  We aren't burdened by the sadness that comes from watching someone you love fight to live.  We have everything we want, and nothing that we don't want.  Who can say that?

We were at my niece's high school graduation a couple of nights ago, and one of the students said he wanted to join the Marines and have a family when he got out.  I leaned over to my husband and whispered, "You are living someone else's dream."  He half-jokingly said, "That's a big responsibility."  But, I've been thinking about that.  Our whole life is someone else's dream.  Other people dream about when all of their children were young.  When everyone was healthy.  When everyone was alive.  When everyone was happy.  When everyone had time to spend together.  These days of mine are the "good 'ol days" of their's.

Living someone else's dream is a big responsibility.  It is quite possible that other people would die (or give anything) to have what we have.  Our responsibility is to appreciate what we have, and try to stay present.    In the midst of chaos, fighting, ingratitude, and boredom, I am tempted to wish these moments away.  To look forward to another, more peaceful time.  To escape.  Is it just me, or is it funny to think that we may be escaping back to these very moments that we feel so desperate to leave?

We have the privilege of knowing a 93-year-old woman.  We took her to church for a couple of years, but her health is failing, so I've been looking in on her a little more often.  She appreciates my visits tremendously, but gently chastises me about needing to be home with my family.  The last time, she told me that "Families don't last forever" and I need to be spending my time with them.  When she said that, she caught me off-guard; I felt a little shock wave go out from my heart through the rest of my body.  Is it possible my family won't last forever, or at least until I die?  Is it possible that something could happen that would change the way we relate to each other forever?   Yes.  It is possible.  And I am a better woman, wife, sister, daughter, and mother when I force myself to sit in the uncomfortable place where this question lives.  Just for a little while. 

My 93-year-old friend knows this.  She is the last living among her siblings, and many of them were younger than her.  For a long time, she has wondered why the Lord allowed her to survive them all.  She raised six children whom she did not bear.  Her husband's first wife died in a plane accident.  The youngest child was 3-years-old when their Mom died.    Her memories of living in a family like mine are but a distant memory, so she urges me to be present and live family life well, while I still can.

*If we bump into each other this summer, and I seem to have lost the wonder and appreciation of the gifts of time and family, please gently remind me and I'll do the same for you.

Dear God of the Summertime,

Thank you.  Thank you for days upon days on the calendar that are wide open to encounter your love through creatures and creation.  Thank you for the gift of health.  Thank you for the gift of time.  Thank you for the gift of family.  Lord, please be very near to those whose only experience of these gifts is their desire for them.  For us, whom you've blessed beyond measure, give us the grace to give from the abundance you've bestowed.  Help us to live in a way that honors the responsibility we have, while we're living someone else's dream.  Please bless and accompany all who are suffering in body, mind, or spirit.  Amen.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day Ramblings

Waking up to the dream of motherhood yesterday morning:

"Mom, the cat threw up on Bman's jacket."
(I'm still in bed)  "Where is it?"
"On the couch."
"Ok, Don't touch it."

While I was lying in bed feeling grateful that the cat threw up on something that could just be picked up, and nothing needed to be wiped down, a parade of boys started coming in my room with "Happy Mother's Day" wishes, and throwing stuff on me.  Stuff I couldn't see because my glasses were still on my bedside table.  But, when I put my glasses on, I saw the stuff.  The stuff included big and little "Happy Mother's Day!" messages with hearts on poster board, a handmade pan flute made from bamboo (which they cut down at the park and normally use for making spears), and 12 cents that my youngest happened to be holding in his hand when he came in.  Awesome.

It reminded me of something I read on Facebook yesterday that was something like, "When a child gives you something, receive it with a tremendous amount of gratitude.  It might be the only thing they have to give and they're giving it to you."   Amen. 

Normally, I'm not much into "things" and have the grace to accept "what is".  But yesterday, I hosted a table at the most beautiful brunch you can imagine.  I've hosted tables before, but I always used someone else's stuff because I'm not good at decorating, I don't have nice stuff, blah, blah, blah.  But, this year, I dug out all of my Mom's china to see if I could pull it off.  With the exception of the glasses and the silverware and the flowers and the statue, I did.

And I was caught off-guard by the sudden memories of myself as a little girl, eating cherry cheesecake on those pretty little plates.  Added to my surprise, I found myself misty-eyed, missing my Mom.  Not because I never miss her, but because she was miss-ing.  She belonged around that table with her china that she hasn't seen in over 20 years, that her Mom bought at the grocery store, a little at a time.  But, wishing she was there is a lot easier than actually getting her there.  She has to have a caregiver to travel anywhere, and that caregiver has a family of her own, so a 10-hour drive for a weekend getaway is a little tricky to pull off.  However, next year we need to make it happen.  She belongs there with her china.  And with me. 

Just like I belong with my boys.  But, not like I used to.  Not all close and snuggly like days gone by.  I used to play with them and chase them around the house, but now I mostly chase them off of video games and TV screens.  They would rather do a lot of things than do something with me.  Maybe because my something is going to the grocery store or folding laundry.  They don't want to play board games, and I don't want to play guns.  I will jump on the trampoline, but it seems like they usually ask me when I'm making dinner, so I end up feeling like the "No" queen.

It's at these times, I find myself wanting to love them better by spending more time with them, but it seems I'm too busy taking care of them.  Sometimes, it's hard that love has to give what is needed, which is not necessarily what it wants to give.  Jesus says in Matthew 25:34-35 "...Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."  These things matter because these are ways we love well.  As mothers, fortunately for us (by God's design), we love this way every. single. day. 

However, of all the things I do for my boys, I think the most important thing is something that no one sees.  And that something is prayer.  Prayer for them.  I cut this prayer from our church bulletin awhile back and pray it every morning.  It seems to touch on all of the things that matter.  I want to share it with you, in case you'd like to pray it, too:

Pope Francis:
A Parent's Prayer for
Their Children 
O Heavenly Father,
I commend my children
unto Thee.
Be Thou their God and
Father; and mercifully
supply whatever is wanting
in me through frailty
or negligence.
Strengthen them to
overcome the corruptions of
the world, to resist all
solicitations to evil, whether
from within or without; and
deliver them from the secret
snares of the enemy.
Pour Thy grace into their
hearts, and confirm and
multiply in them the gifts of
Thy Holy Spirit, that they
may daily grow in grace and
in the knowledge of our
Lord Jesus Christ; and so,
faithfully serving Thee here,
may come to rejoice in Thy
presence hereafter.

As I'm starting my seventh week of my hospital chaplain internship, I am more-aware-than-ever of the gifts of life, love, health, and family.  If we have even one of these things, we are blessed.  If we  could live in the reality of how blessed we are, our gratitude would demand that we spend every bit of ourselves trying to pay it forward or pay it back.

Dear Creator, Redeemer, Savior, and Friend,

Thank you for the gift of motherhood, the gift of life, the gift of love, the gift of health, and the gift of family.  Please continue to guide us and lead us in this sublime role of parenting.  It is the best way  out of ourselves and into You.  Please bless all who are missing their children this day, whether they've gone ahead to meet you or are just far away.  Please grant us the continuous grace to remain in the knowledge that the children you entrust to us are never really "ours".  They have been Yours and will always be Yours.  Help us do well by them, and lead them back to You.  Amen.