The Edge of Seven

Jonathan turns seven next week and the boy has PLANS. By that I mean he picked out his cake mix and sprinkles on the last grocery run. Suspecting (correctly) that sleep-deprived forgetfulness is on the rise, he kindly reminds me quite often  “Mom, it’s almost time for birthday cake.”    In the regular chaos of life, I occasionally find a mixing bowl mysteriously put out on  the counter. When I ask if the mysterious invisible children “No one”, “Not Me” or “I’m Not Sure” did it,  he says, “Almost birthday time! ” He completes his exchange by raising an eyebrow, cocking  his head to the side as if to ensure the acknowledgement of expectation.

He also enlisted help from his Dad, who knows love notes are the key to wooing me.

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( I remember, Son. You were nearly 9 pounds and almost killed us both. That deserves cake.)

Rather than make a gift list, he insists that he should shop and pick things out himself, like a Big Kid Who Is Seven. Asking for money and gift cards?n Are we on the edge of teen years?

Living On The Edge sounds thrilling, frightening and exhilarating. It is a place on anticipation. We wait for sunrise to triumphantly tear through darkness each morning…literally.  Over the last few years, William has not been able to sleep through the night. William’s facial structure causes sinus/ear infections, sleep apnea, and other issues. Three years of medications, appointments, sleep studies, and every remedy under the sun.

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In the last seven months he has awakened between 2:30-4:30 am. In those moments, we long for dawn to break and for the day’s schedule to begin.  Often, we go turn on music and let him dance. It fills him with joy and keeps him quiet enough for the other children to sleep. This morning, at the edge of sunrise, we were on the Edge of Seventeen.

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Once Elizabeth woke up, William ran to her to say good morning. During her breakfast, he was on the edge again.

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By 6am, my sanity was close to the edge. Then, as children often do, they filled the mundane and stressful moments of life with heart-tugging moments that make it all worth it. Character, kindness, and joy shine through.

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A few hours later BOTH the boys were prepared for school. Their little feet stood at the sidewalk’s edge so they could peek around the trees and watch for the bus. This is the first opportunity since September– and we went through our usual routine. We pray. We go through daily reminders. Then we huddle up, put hands in, and give our family cheer.

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The day continued with appointments that went to the edge of the work day. Dirty dishes pile over the edge of the sink. Exhaustion has put us all on edge– and a few of us right over it. Here we sit, on the edge of tomorrow. We are full on anticipation, full of hope, and on the edge of seven.

 

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Why We Weep (according to a 6 yr old)

There are some things parents do, no matter how many times we swear we won’t do it. We ask ridiculous questions and say ridiculous things. Today I fell prey to one of the basic blunders. No, it wasn’t challenging a Sicilian to a battle of wits when death was on the line… ( a reference from The Princess Bride)

I asked a question that has sparked outstanding answers over generations. Why do we weep? Ah, the glimpses of our greatest pains and triumphs? The joys of wedding days, the sorrow of death, the release of endorphins after a near death experience. Why do we weep in this house? The inspiring answers could be endless…

WHY are you CRYING, Jonathan?

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  1. I want a family movie night! (5 minutes before bedtime) Make time go slower!

I can do MANY amazing things, but controlling time is above my pay-grade, Son. I shall now pause for 10 seconds to emphatically sing the chorus of “If I Could Turn Back Time”.

2. Elizabeth is crying

Well, I suppose a brother is born for adversity.  As Dolly Parton said in Steel Magnolias, “I have a strict policy. Nobody cries alone in my presence.”Yet it was only last week that Jonathan comforted his baby sister with, “No, no Elizabeff. There is NO crying in baseball!” How short our memories can be. 

3. I don’t want to eat my quesadilla or the crust!

(He ate it…and they don’t have a crust.)

4. Why does the Green Lantern have to be GREEEEEN?

5. The shower water is too hot, too cold, too warm, and too wet.

Right-o. isma

That was just the last three hours. The other two were equally emotionally stable. I say, “Row well and live”, they drive us straight into an iceberg.

This week has been one for the record books, my friends. Tears may be no more in Heaven, but there is weeping and gnashing of teeth in Hell. Right now, this house looks…less than heavenly. There are more indiscernible explanations through sobs happening in the kitchen than in a girls’ bathroom at a middle school dance.

 

This week was a breaking point for all of us. Schedules are filled to the brim with doctor’s appointments and new strains. There has been weeping from teething, weeping from over-exhaustion, weeping from deep pain, weeping for the joy of prayers answered and sleep finally coming to those who need it most…

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Crying doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be logical. At least, it certainly doesn’t in this house. I am confident that before long, we will be laughing until we cry once more.

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion”… even if the Green Lantern has to be green.

 

Suffering For The Lord, and other things that happened at Fort Belvoir

I am now accepting applications for a personal press secretary.

Perhaps I am just used to translating toddler-talk and reading between the grace-filled gaps with sleep-deprived mothers. Perhaps I just assume people will know what I mean, or will just smile and nod. Perhaps one day I will remember how to speak coherently without interjections of “Get that out of your mouth!”  in every other sentence. Unfortunately, today was not that day. Worse, I was holding a microphone.

It’s a powerful thing to be able to say “Hi. I have a son with Autism and a brain tumor. I have another son with Down Syndrome whose leukemia is in remission. Won’t you hold my baby?”  Did I say those exact words, as I intended? No. No, I did not.

Pro tip: When asked to give a testimony on joy through suffering, be sure not to garble the testimony about the suffering. Specifically, don’t be so concerned to talk about Jesus glory more than your personal story that you forget to explain how horrible the circumstances are than you faced– so that you can explain how Jesus worked through it.

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I haven’t spoken to a group in quite some time, unless all three kids gathered in the bathroom watching me tinkle counts. (It doesn’t.) Rusty though I am, I wouldn’t have missed today for the world. The alarm went off at 5:00am so that Elizabeth and I could make it to Fort Belvior, Virginia to speak to the Protestant Women of the Chapel.

Three months ago, I met the most amazing mom over social media. This momma has two gorgeous young boys and one on the way– and this baby boy is extra special. Like William, he has Down Syndrome. Despite having lots of amazing moms in my DS tribe, this is the first time I got to meet someone face to face after befriending them! It was a thrill.

Just seeing her was a confirmation of all God has done through William’s life and the testimony that has been built by the therapies, surgeries, cancer treatments and daily celebrations. Her gorgeous mother was there wielding the grandma-touch; Elizabeth promptly fell asleep in her arms.

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The morning was full of mishaps and challenges for all involved, but the worship was genuine and praised God through our mess. The first handful of women I met had stories full of mothering through medical disability, of surgeries and chemotherapy, of freedom from addiction and potty training!  Is there anything as wonderful as walking into a room of strangers and knowing they are family? After all, crock pots of grits and taco soup awaited. These were Jesus- loving women.

There were technical mishaps, taco soup was spilled off a motorcycle, a chaplain’s assistant risked electrical shock, and Elizabeth was her fussiest to date. If Satan had ever tried to distract or dismay a group of ladies, this was it.

Then we began to worship anyway. The songs, the testimony in dance, the poem and the worship all echoed the same message– God gave each woman a melody but when we all came together we made a harmony in a resounding message– God was better, bigger, and mighty in suffering.

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Everything was in line and powerful…and then it was my turn.

Photogenic and polished at all times, as always.

I promise that I was speaking an encouraging word and NOT yelling or passing gas. Truly.

God was there and working. After conversing with so many women with powerful testimonies and great attitudes, meeting them felt like an encouraging homecoming. They gave me grace and heard the message through my mess.  (I will post the video link soon!)

Hearing the stories of how God has worked in these women and clearly seeing their resolve to endure in Christ through trial  gave me a glorious morning. We reminded each other that we aren’t running alone. When we spur each other on and help each other focus on Christ, the rest grows dim.

In the back of my mind I knew Jonathan was receiving chemotherapy, that William’s “witching hour” would be fierce after his 2am wake-up, and that traffic and a forgotten dinner plan awaited. Then God showed up. When God shows up…clutch your Crock-pot and brace for impact, Ladies.

Again, I’m in need of a press secretary. I can pay you in grilled cheese sandwiches and hugs. Until then, I’ll just keep trying to tell what Christ is doing in our lives and hope others can hear Christ through my mess.

 

Silent Battlefields… (Sorry for the silence)

They never heeded the warning. The sign at the entrance was clear, but only one ever decided to keep walking. I walked with several who later wished they had.

All of the life-like exhibits at the National Infantry Museum impress, but the glass- encased recreation of the Vietnam jungle was startling. It was my job to walk silently, backward and in heels, listening to the sound track. The sounds of rain, animals, and stillness was eerie. No one ever spoke, unless it was to whisper how real it felt. That silence would suddenly be shattered by the sound of gunfire, simulating an ambush.

Some veterans have shielded me, some have grabbed my arms, some have rushed out, and some have started crying sudden, anxious tears.  Soon we completed the winding 15 foot walk out of the glass doors, back to the sound track of a Huey overhead.

Those who speak loudly or exclaim how magnificent a place is can respect and admire its significance, but often they aren’t the ones who made it significant. Watch the quiet ones. When they speak, you will want to listen.

“I don’t know what happened. All of a sudden, I was just there again.”  We would walk in silence for a while. When you walk past your battlegrounds you have to fight twice- the past and present join like two sides of a coin.

That’s where I am this week. Three years ago, William’s body was in the worst shape of his life. We had that night where I was hurriedly escorted out of the room as my baby shrieked himself hoarse and everyone came running. His skin peeled from his face and bled. My Facebook statuses begged for prayers. Swollen, infected, suffering– my two year old didn’t get released from the hospital cancer-free until a month after it was expected. Every day was a matter of life and death. I knew it would be one of the most important times of my life. I never wanted to experience it again.

 

I’ve looked back for writing to I can remember the words that match the images I have burned in my mind. There are none. There is only quiet and a few paragraphs that simply say things like,

” The greatest lesson I am learning from this season of sacrifice and struggle is that when we feel most forsaken by God, he is actually the most present and loving. Great struggles yield great victories. The battle is in believing it, and it is something I am still wrestling with. When we are most broken, God gets the greatest glory. If you are struggling against God’s Will today, fear not– you are in good company along with me…and Jesus. Great faith starts with obedience “.

I strained to hear God’s voice, knowing he could hear the screaming of my spirit. There was so much to hear that there was little I could say.

Jonathan has chemo on Thursday. He will have a new cycle of drugs he hasn’t had before, and the hospital stay will be longer. We know what to expect but then there could be more difficulty that is new to us.

Jonathan turns 7 this month. I started thinking about how to celebrate a birthday restricted by cancer. Then I realized William turned two the week he began chemotherapy, only three short years ago. Even small things… so I gave up planning and ate chocolate cake. It’s what the people who love me recommend.

I’m walking the battlefield. I’m quietly counting the losses and the victories as I prepare for battle again. Distractions are plentiful (thank you, children) but my soul needs quiet. After all, as I fought the first time, the Spirit was surprisingly quiet. Jesus was just present.

Here is to the Spirit, quieting the soul…and chocolate cake.