Family, Gratitude, Hope, Intentionality, Personal Reflection

Birthday Lilacs and Sister Walks

Today is my sister’s birthday and I woke up with a familiar ache in my heart. Something I’ve learned about grief is it’s not all that accurate to say it gets easier with time. Rather, the spaces between the difficult moments gradually grow larger.

It’s been a good while since I’ve had an especially emotional day of grief, but when it came today, it felt much like so many days crammed into the last three years. Today arrived with the same instantly recognizable longing for my sister–to hear her voice and laugh, to see her smile, to know she is here and will be here tomorrow.

Stepping outside with my Bible as the day began, I spotted the new blossoms in my bed of irises. Somehow their purple and white petals brought my mind round to Cheryl’s red and pink rose bushes. I sat down to read and pray but my thoughts remained unsettled, and I soon found myself standing in front of the flowers again. I caught the odor of lilacs from the bush a few feet away. The first bunches of blossoms had opened and the scent pulled me closer.

Cheryl loved lilacs as much as I do. I gave up blinking away my tears and inhaled the gorgeous scent. In my mind’s eye, I could see the text I would’ve sent with a photo.

The lilacs bloomed for your birthday! They smell heavenly.

How I wanted to send that text.

The tears came and went through the day. I confided in a friend who knows the pain of losing family to terrible cancer battles, and pushing through the workdays despite the distraction of that pain. I glanced through favorite photos and smiled at her smile. Cheryl hovered in my thoughts in each hour, sometimes in the foreground and sometimes in the back. When evening came and my kids were settled at their dad’s for the night, the restlessness crowded me in the quiet of my home. You know, that restlessness that comes with a longing that can’t be eased.

Take a walk.

The suggestion rose over the mental noise. I wanted a walk with Cheryl though.

Cheryl loved walks. I loved walking with Cheryl. I think we all did. Walking with Cheryl meant talking with Cheryl. She rarely pushed the pace because, I suppose, if you were out of breath you couldn’t be talking. Cheryl didn’t do much small talk. A little perhaps, but it’d pass quickly and the rest was spent on the real stuff. That’s not to say every conversation was intense, but every conversation was intentional. Cheryl knew what mattered and didn’t pretend otherwise. She treated time with you as a valuable part of her day. She listened. She drew you out. On a walk was a natural time to do all of that.

As I walked tonight, I thought how it’d be if she were at my side. We’d comment on the proud orange poppies swaying in the dim twilight. Marveling at the sunset, we might voice a scripture verse or worship song brought to mind by the beauty. She would ask questions that got to the heart of whatever burdened my shoulders. Walks with Cheryl were a treasure.

I want another. I want to end it in my front yard where we can smell the lilacs. But I’m thankful the lilacs are here. I’m grateful for each walk that we had. I’m eager for the walks we’ll take again someday.

I know the walks with her have not run out. There’s only more space in between them.

Friendship, Faith, Hope, Personal Reflection, Prayer

On the Way Home

God and I had a hard talk today. Driving home on Highway 43, I railed and prayed and wept for my dear friends and their newly arisen hardships. What a cross is cancer.

I alternated between asking for mercy and a miracle, and voicing demands to know why and how.

Then came a truth that got me through oh so many dark days in the last few years. It cut across my thoughts in a clear voice.

“The Lord God stands in your future.”

My mind quieted and I repeated that truth to myself.

It is not why and how that can bring peace. It is only the truth that God stands in my future; that He stands in my friends’ futures. The Holy Spirit led my thoughts from there.

God stands in all of it – in every period of our lives. Each stretch of the road is a piece of the journey that can lead to Him. To Heaven and our fullness of life for eternity. Only He sees from beginning to end, and where this present piece fits into the whole.

Because of who He is, we can trust Him with the whole thing. Past, present, future can be entrusted to His hands. He, in turn, entrusts a piece back to us. He holds that piece with us. That piece is now. It is the most present part of the present stage of our lives. It is today.

“I give you today. I ask you to bear it, yes, but it only. I give you the joys and sorrows, the tasks and fruits of today. And just as I have not yet given you the time of tomorrow, I have not given you the work of tomorrow. Those worries, wants, and crosses are still in my hands. I stand in your future, a beacon and a fortress. I hold your future. I hold it lovingly in the palm of my hand. There is a refuge there in my hands, even now.”

The Lord God stands in my future. I declare it. I claim it for them and for myself.

“Thou holdest my lot.” (Psalm 16:5b)

“The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

“In Him my heart trusts.” (Psalm 28:7b)

Please pray for the Tim and Erin Viau family as they undertake this battle with Tim’s glioblastoma.

If you are interested in supporting the Viaus in additional ways, please consider donating toward their needs during this time of treatments and recovery.
Catholicism, Faith, Family, Gratitude, Holiness, Jesus, Lent, Motherhood, Personal Reflection

Every Day All Day

“I want to be with God and receive God and have him in my heart every day all day.”

Annie’s 1st Eucharist is approaching and this was her note written at the end of yesterday’s retreat day for the 2nd graders preparing for the sacrament. Today when we came home from Mass, she and Tim were playing. In the middle of a Lego battle, Tim paused and looked at her.

“I’m so excited for you to receive Communion.”

Oh, the beauty of a child’s faith. That eagerness to encounter Jesus. These two little people have no idea how often they help renew my joy.

Dignity, Intentionality, Personal Reflection

Made For a Purpose

I found this box at a thrift store several months back. I loved it immediately but it has sat empty in this spot in my kitchen since then, waiting for its purpose. Then I finally made a decision for it a few days ago. Today, I came inside from the below-zero morning air and popped it open, smiling at its perfect fullness, and chose a cup of warmth to brew.

A little reminder that your real purposes are worth waiting for. They will bring joy and refresh your soul. Like a good cup of tea, perhaps.

Family, Motherhood, Personal Reflection

Playing Cards and Memories

On Wednesday night, one of my fifth graders asked how we still have so many stories and traditions from lots and lots of years ago. I talked about the natural passing of such things from grandparents and parents to children and grandchildren by living and sharing traditions and stories together, as well as other sources for passing on those pieces of life. We moved on with our class lesson then, but tonight his question popped back into my head

This is how it happens.

Playing Skip-Bo with my children for the first time and explaining how it was my favorite game to play with my Grandma Ebsch when I was a kid. Playing it with Grandma’s own set of cards, passed on to me after she died, I described how Grandma Ebsch adored playing card games of any kind and spent hours teaching her grandchildren the games too. Even as teens, we loved playing cards with Grandma, and I never tired of Skip-Bo.

Confiding these memories – smiling over it all and imagining how Grandma would be thrilled if she could play with us tonight – watching the two of them excitedly catch on to the game – this is how it happens.

We played Twister too, but that piece of entertainment affected my back more than my nostalgic heart.

Personal Reflection, Writing

New Notebook

I’m choosing a new writing notebook today. I am trying to think of the best way to describe this thrill. Picking this notebook stirs up anticipation much like a fresh adventure. I’ve felt it while packing for a trip to somewhere completely new. I’ve tasted it in the early morning preparation before running a race, and when launching my kayak into a new lake. It is laced with excitement, joy, and a nervous sense of responsibility to make the most of the experience.

This isn’t for writing my current novel WIP. It is the notebook for ideas and snippets that are born in any given moment of the day. It is hauled with me most everywhere and is missed when it’s left at home.

My faithful writing companion.

The last one held numerous unformed ideas, flash fiction stories, blog posts, and seeds and scenes of short stories. Meaningful moments were captured there. Characters were born there. The last pages hold the first draft of a letter that would change my life in a way I’d longed to see for years. There are still undeveloped ideas in it that I will try to turn into whole scenes or stories. It has served me wonderfully well.

It’s an important notebook, you see. I cannot wait to discover what will fill it.

Personal Reflection, Writing

Present Tense

I used to write in places like this one.

The cafe I’m sitting in is the sort of place I used to write in regularly. That’s what I thought about as I walked through the chiming door into the buzz of conversations and the invigorating odor of coffee.

I used to….

The past tense of the thought unsettled me. How else to change it then but by writing in this place? I promised myself that before I left this table at a picture window overlooking the downtown shops, I would write something. I’d write for the sake of transforming my statement to the present tense.

So, here I am, writing something in this small-town coffeehouse with delicious pastries, soothing teas, and busy tables. Just as I should be.

I’m currently living in a meet-the-needs-of-this-day mindset. It neither allows for procrastination of things to be done today, nor for anxiousness about days ahead. That’s not to say I’m free from procrastination or anxiety (wouldn’t that be a dream), but I’m trying. I’m aiming. Some days I land near the target and some days I lose track of it entirely. My brain and my emotions are in recovery mode currently and I find I only have the capacity – emotionally, mentally, physically – for what is truly needed for the present day. Rarely more. In low moments, even that much is questionable, but only in the low moments.

I’m discovering the words and actions that help me silence the anxious, speculative thoughts. There is no ignoring the tension I carry in my muscles from the moment I wake until I eventually fall asleep in the middle of the night. My heels are dug deep in self-awareness, constantly in tune with the ways my body and mind need to be supported. It is both transforming and exhausting. I am counting on the habits I develop now, in this less than ideal place, to help me thrive beyond this leg of the journey.

My personal journal was all I could pick up for a while, but I’m breaking back into the novel WIP and blogging in recent weeks. The energy that writing gives, plus the unshakeable desire to write much, much more, propels me forward while other pieces of life right now are pulling me down. Undoubtedly, writing will continue to be one of my most encouraging companions as I transition from crisis mode to adjustment and acceptance to thriving on a new path.

Living in the present, carpe diem, and all that jazz have taken on new meaning lately. They are less about taking bold chances and more about expecting both God and myself to see to the needs of this day. “Give us this day our daily bread.” How often I’ve prayed that one line in sporadic moments through the last few months. For strength, clarity, wisdom, grace, peace… just for today. Tomorrow is still out of my reach, and that’s probably for the best. Today has trouble enough of its own, to paraphrase Jesus.

So far the track record for that little prayer being answered is as steady as can be. He makes a way and, one day at a time, I try to walk it. Maybe that’s as much as I ought to expect of myself in any stage of life, not only the one I’m navigating at present.

My tea is gone and I’m going home. I’ll be back though because…

I write in places like this one.