January 20, 2014

To Life

The sun set as the moon rose.
The exchange much needed in
these groundhog days
we’ve been living.
The world is still turning and
we aren’t stuck.
It’s easy to get tunnel vision
and believe
the world we are living in
is all that exists.
By God’s grace,
we have our memories.
They remind us of life beyond
infusion cubicles and
yogurt before meds.
The imagination still awakens
in beautiful dreams,
rising and setting
on the horizon.
the masking wearing community
of life-seekers in the now;
a cocktail of hope,
sometimes hard to swallow,
a drink to life.

Dad is eleven days out from his stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, most of the patient population at the treatment center is suffering with respiratory viruses, including Dad. He is turning the corner as his blood counts are beginning to recover. We are grateful though the realities of the days of coming and going for treatment continues on a seven day a week schedule is excepted to continue for days to come.

Thank you for your prayers. Much love, Dea

January 7, 2014

When You Put your Heart in an Envelope

(Dad, at Christmas, with one of his greats! (Photo by my sister,  Leanne)
The sun warmed us, made us sleepy, as we rode the highway home from our morning appointment at Infusion Four. The sky said it was close to noon.

I made a beeline to the kitchen to mix liquid potassium with water, stir a packet of essential minerals into a cup of cran-grape. Tomorrow Dad will get an infusion of some of the 30 million stem cells harvested from his blood back in November. They harvested the week of the ice storm. 

Shucking my coat on the way to the kitchen, I dropped a white envelope on the table beside his recliner. 

Today is my Dad’s seventy-second birthday.

When I came around the corner back into the living room, his shaky chemo hands were slipping the card back into its envelope.

Dad looked up at me from his chair. I had written in the card last night. I didn't have a birthday card and I realized this way after dark when the date popped into my mind. Pulling my boots back on just before half-time of the football game, I left my place curled up under a blanket. There was little motivation to go out. It was eleven degrees. The temperature was sure to drop even more by morning. That was enough motivation to get me moving. My prince of husband put his clothes back on and went out with me, dropped me at the door of the grocery store. (I know. I'm spoiled.)

Of course, the perfect card didn’t jump out at me from the tiered shelf on the back wall by the pharmacy. I found one that would do. It was created for a father from his daughter. It wasn’t particularly visually appealing (it was ugly), but it had a sweet sentiment. 

Later, I washed my face and put on my pajamas, and then I opened the card and wrote on the shiny right flap with my gel pen. 

I took a deep breath before I started to write, because I was about to put down my heart in words.

I wrote down my heart because I have embraced vulnerability. Not because it is easy, but because it is powerful and true. I think God honors vulnerability over pretense. It also leads to connection. Connection is something I want and need, something I am willing to risk to have. I believe it is a necessary ingredient of the abundant life I have been given in Jesus Christ. It is His way.

True love takes risks. Love is always risky. We know it in our bones. We need love like we need water. We can’t live… truly live, without it. 

For much of my life, my relationship with my Dad happened at a distance. Not an emotional distance, but a real one. We didn’t live in the same house after I was age eleven or twelve. The times we did spend together were good, but almost always in the company of others. I wrote in the card that the only real gift of this battle with his cancer has been spending time with him one-on-one. It was a gift to me to be with him today on his birthday even if it was in Infusion Four. 

He said he’d been thinking the same thing, about getting to spend time with his kids. This same sentiment had been on his heart. His eyes told me he meant it.

I have come to know my Dad in a way I have never known him.  And he has come to know me, the grown-up me. God redeems time.

He looked up at me and said, “Thank you.” 

I told him the words I had written were true.

Even in the bad things, you can find the good. And this, what you wrote, this is true about the good--- getting to be with you, your sister, and brother in all this.”

He went on to tell me that he wanted to express these thoughts about the good he found in the bad on Christmas Eve. He wanted to tell us, our spouses, our kids. He didn’t. He was happy on the afternoon we all gathered in the living room and sipped on hot chocolate, opened envelopes stuffed with greenbacks. 

He decided not to say anything because he didn't know if the kids would understand.

I wish he had. Not for my sake, but for theirs. The truth is some of them wouldn’t have understood. They would have squirmed in their adolescence, or in the new awareness that those they love are not immune to what is common to man.

I assured him it was okay that he hadn't said what was on his mind. They’d understand someday. They are like all of us, on the learning curve. They will know the lesson in time. Time is a great teacher.

That was it, a conversation that lasted less than three minutes but one I won’t soon forget.

Say what needs to be said in the living years. Write down your heart on paper or cards---cards that cost a ridiculous amount of money and never really say what you mean. Buy the card. There's always a place to write what you really feel. Write in it your heart, and hand it over in an envelope. 

Even better, speak what you think might break you. Say what might choke you up, cause you to pause and collect yourself, to hunt words, get them out of your heart and onto your tongue. It’s hard. You will get through it, and you’ll be glad you did.

True love takes risks. Love is always risky. We know it in our bones. We need Love like we need water. We can’t live… truly live, without Him. 
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19, ESV)
So thankful for this day and for the blessing of spending a part of it with Dad and with you. Have you embraced vulnerability? Do you need love like you need water? God loves you. He is Love and He is Water. Open your heart to him and He will fill you up.

Linking with Jennifer (#TellHisStory) and Emily (Imperfect Prose
and Holley (Coffee for Your Heart Encouragement Challenge)

January 1, 2014

Surrender, A Beautiful Obedience

I had a dream---a little dream.

It lit before sleep just as I pulled the sheets to crawl under.

When I woke the morning, the dream sat on the table. I picked it up and tucked it away.

Until the day, I pursued the dream. I told others about the dream, prayed God would open the door to the room where the dream would find its place in the real, in the tangible, the measured.

I followed after the dream, intent, determined not to set it aside. I focused on the dream for a long time. I pampered it and let it grow. My little dream grew into a Big Dream.

Finally, the vision of the Big Dream was in place. I was ready to let the dream take on form, find its way out of the clouds into the world.

I took it all tidy and neat to the Dreamer’s door. (There is a door dreams must enter, the passage from being what could be, to what is.)

When I arrived at the door, it was locked. 

I looked around, perplexed. I looked around for other dreamers, for someone who knew the way in. Someone had the key. In my searching, I noticed a note stuck to the sash, “Leave your dream at the Door.”  

Just when I had stepped forward to the dream realized, I knew without a doubt I had to relinquish my dream. Bending low, I surrendered my well-laid plans, laid them down gently and walked away.

The day I surrendered my dream, I felt my spirit soar.

There was unexpected joy in surrenderIng. It surprised me, freed me.

Dreams take the heart on journeys. 

I have taken other dream journeys--- journeys where doors swung open just as I arrived at my destination.

But if I am honest there have been other times when I have banged on the door of dreams. I have held them close to my heart, treasured them like they were mine—mine---mine. I have hammered on dream doors until my fist was bruised. 

By God’s grace, this time I took the dream to the place it was to rest. I laid it down and was lifted up. The One who gave me the dream didn’t take it from me. He only asked me to leave it be.

God gave Hannah a child. In her broken barrenness, God blessed her with a baby boy. His name was Samuel. She vowed to give him back to God. When he was weaned, Samuel slipped his little boy hand around his mother’s pinky finger and they walked the dusty path to the Shiloh. Hannah gave her dream-come-true back to God. 

And then she worshipped. 

God dreamed the Big Dream of redemption. We know the story, the story of God who surrendered the glory of heaven to live here among the unholy, the sinful, the sick, the selfish. Jesus, wrapped in dirt flesh, his heart pumping hot, pure, and holy blood came and lived among us.

Jesus surrendered to the shame and the pain of the cross so those He created, those He loves, could be forgiven, redeemed. He surrendered to death so we can live---forever.

Jesus’ life and death was no dream. It was real and it was witnessed.  

The death of Jesus Christ was the act of surrender that changed everything.

On the cusp of a new year, I am dreaming a new dream. New words are being written on my heart. They may make it through the Dreamer's Door or they may sit on the step. 

One thing I've learned on this dream journey: surrender is a beautiful obedience.

The boy Samuel grew to be a holy and righteous judge, a prophet, the mouthpiece of God. With God-given inspiration, he said this:
And Samuel said, 
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?   Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
Empty hands, palms up, open to the new. Open ears hear new revelations.

Open is my word this year. I am emptying today, open to what tomorrow brings. 
Receiving. Dreaming. Surrendering. 
Arms wide open.

This past year was a year of surrender for me. I have learned many lessons in it. The year ahead is sure to hold new dreams. Some will find their way out of the clouds. Others will sit. 

Thank you for reading and commenting as I re-entered the blogging world this past year. I crept slowly back in and have posted about once a week.

For those of you who have prayed for my Dad and our family, he begins the 'transplant' phase of his treatment for cancer tomorrow. January begins with hope and gratefulness despite the pain, the heartache, the incredible life adjustments that have come with this terrible illness.

Your prayers are appreciated. I may not be posting here for most of the month, but I am excited about a much-needed blog renovation coming in February---my birthday gift to myself in my 'golden year.' Hope you'll join me then. I may be missing from the feeds  in the weeks ahead.

Thanks so much for reading, for being encouragers in my life. I can't tell you what it has meant to me…

Blessings in the New Year, Dea

Linking with Jennifer at #TellHisStory and Emily at Imperfect Prose