Friday, March 28, 2014

A Friend Loves at All Time

"A friend loves at all times." Proverbs 17:17

Just before lunch on Friday, July 30th, 2010, I left my three monkeys with my friend Courtney. I was running to the OB for my ultrasound appointment. I was supposed to be back by two-ish.

Courtney was a friend from church. She was employed part time and we had an empty apartment in our garage. We figured it was a win-win for us all. Courtney lives in the garage & hangs out with us, helping mama in her off hours. It became an especially great plan when I got pregnant and became completely miserable most of the time. Because Courtney worked her real job in the mornings, she could hang out with the babies in the afternoon, when my "morning sickness" was at its worst. Mama got to sleep through the nausea, the babies didn't burn the house down or play with knives. Win-win. So, Courtney was already worth her weight in gold around this home on that fateful day.

I remember texting her from the doctor's office. The baby had no heartbeat. We were on the way to the hospital. She replied that I shouldn't worry about the kids--she'd take care of everything.

And she did until we got home sometime the next day. The kids were in her wonderfully loving care, entirely unaware of what was happening.

Over the next few months, Courtney continued to come over each afternoon to be with the kids. But now, instead of persistent nausea, it was debilitating grief that kept mama in her bed. I remember just trying to hold it together through the morning until she arrived at the back door and I could go collapse in anguish and tears on my pillow.

Day after day, this angel came and played Hi Ho Cherry-O and gave baths and changed diapers and made macaroni and cheese. She pushed swings and read stories and listened to the sound of the Wonder Pets on TV while she washed our dishes. Day after day she listened to me cry and question and say, "I just can't do this."

Somehow we made it through that terrible season and I managed to be able to mother a little bit more, and the economy let up a little and Courtney's part time job became a full time job and we knew the days of her living with us were drawing to a close.

She moved up the street into her own place and we saw her pretty regularly. And then one day, she got her dream job in NYC. It was such an amazing opportunity and I knew she had to do it and I couldn't imagine how I was going to make it without her here. She moved away and tackled NYC with courage and charm. That was a little over two years ago.

We kept in touch as best we could with Facebook and phone calls and her visits home. The kids missed her terribly and we were always thrilled to hear from her.

A few weeks ago, I got a text. She had an interview back in NC. I prayed and crossed my fingers.

Today, she texted me. "I'm home."

D and I drove straight over to her condo. When he realized where we were, I cannot even explain the noises of glee that came out of that child. Here is what it looked like when he saw his Courtney for the first time in a long while.

Even though I tried to explain she was home for good, my boy would not let go of her for a full five minutes. I understand.

I realized as I watched him hold her that, in so many ways, she was as much a mama to him as I was. She was there to rock him to sleep, to count his little toes, to kiss the boo-boos from when he learned to walk. He was 13 months old when Matthew was conceived and 18 months old when we lost him. I distinctly remember the sound of him waking from his nap and calling from his crib, not "mama" but "Cot-nee!"

Over the past three and a half years, I have many times been filled with thanks for having her in our lives during that difficult and painful season. I've thanked God for having her here, even as I've apologized to her that He asked her to be. I recognize how difficult it must have been for her to continue to come to our house day after day all those months. But I am ever grateful she did because I don't know how we would have lived without her.

Today my guy wrapped his arms around his Courtney like he was never letting her go. I was filled again with gratitude for her presence in our past and filled with joyful anticipation for having her back in NC and in our lives again.

There will never be enough words to express all my gratitude to this amazing woman for her selfless service to me and my family during our darkest days. But I hope somehow that the hug she got today communicated something our enduring love for her and reminded her of the way she brought heaven to the midst of hell on earth for us.

We love you, Court. Welcome home.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lessons From a Well-Worn Sweater

I've been wearing the same clothes for a week and a day.


It's not that I don't have more clothes, but a friend invited me into a Lenten exercise to wear just 6 articles of clothing for the period of Lent leading up to Easter (inspired by Labour Behind the Label, an advocacy group for garment workers).

Lent traditionally encourages folks to take on a fast of their choosing to create an awareness and open space for more reflection and prayer in preparation for Easter. Often people choose to fast from a certain food or drink, like sugar, chocolate or coffee. Several people I know are fasting from social media (great idea!).

When Steph invited me to this exercise, it sounded awful. And hard. And boring.

So I knew I should definitely do it.

Because Lent isn't supposed to be easy. It is supposed to remind is of the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus and God. It's supposed to remind us that the world doesn't revolve around us.

So, I'm a week and a day in and I'm starting to get bored of my clothes. But I will tell you what.

I'm becoming more aware of my privilege as I look at the rows and piles of unused clothing that hang in my closet and sit in my drawers. I'm thanking God for the people who made my shirt, those who made my jeans as I put them on day after day. I'm becoming more aware of all the people who support my cushy lifestyle...the farm workers who picked my organic spinach, my Fuji apple, the miner who drilled the oil for the gas in my car, the people who clean the restroom at the YMCA where I work. I am thinking of those who are homeless every time I feel a little chilly and reach for the same sweater.

I'm starting to "see" people, even if I am not actually laying eyes on them. This Lenten exercise is giving me a broader perspective.

This week in my Holy Yoga classes I taught this passage from Isaiah 58:5-7 (The VOICE):

What kind of a fast do I choose? Is a true fast simply
        some religious exercise for making a person feel miserable and woeful?
    Is it about how you bow your head (like a bent reed), how you dress (in sackcloth),
        and where you sit (in a bed of ashes)?

        Is this what you call a fast, a day the Eternal One finds good and proper?
No,what I want in a fast is this:
        to liberate those tied down and held back by injustice,
        to lighten the load of those heavily burdened,
        to free the oppressed and shatter every type of oppression.
      A fast for Me involves sharing your food with people who have none,
        giving those who are homeless a space in your home,
    Giving clothes to those who need them, and not neglecting your own family.

I'm so grateful that I follow a God who isn't interested in empty, religious ritual. Instead, He is interested in opening my eyes to the things that He sees, interested in opening my heart to the things that His heart beats for.

There are many more weeks of Lent and I am sure this journey will have it's ups and downs. But for today, I'm grateful for this fast and what I'm learning.

Here are my items. I cheated. I picked 7. Because I am a "P" on the Myers-Briggs and narrowing down anything is a near impossibility. Also because between March and April, temperatures can vary between 30 and 80. Which is exactly what it did between Tuesday and today. I'm giving myself grace.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Nature's Child - a gather

Oh, hey, Word of the Year 2014.



So, making 2014 the year of writing has turned out to be harder than I thought. In actuality, it's feeling like the year of writer's block...

But, anyway, I take writing classes with the ever-so-lovely Maureen Ryan Griffin and she has an exercise called The Gather that she has us do every so often. The idea of The Gather is that you listen to a piece of writing (usually a poem), then listen to it a second time as you listen for words and phrases that capture your attention. As you gather these words and phrases, you write them on a piece of paper in no particular order. In the center of your paper, you've reserved a square for your working title. You then take the words and phrases and use them to construct a new piece of writing in 5-7 minutes.

This Thursday, Maureen read us a poem called At Gettysburg by Linda Pastan. Here's what came out of this gather for me.


Nature's Child
She spends her summer mornings within the borders of her yard while mountains peek over her shoulder. Green pines stand side by side on the western edge. She stares at the tiny, tender white flowers with pink stamens and wonders how something so delicate can push up through the hard earth. While listening to the bubbling creek to her left--she mustn't go there alone--she is learning about the points of a small, domed cactus--what they know themselves, a sharp prick, likely to draw blood, can never be avoided. Under the impartial blue sky, she is grown here, finding her form.