Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday is hard on a mother's heart (written in 2005)

Ash Wednesday is hard on a mother’s heart.
It is one thing to consider your own mortality. But I remember the first time the ashes were placed on my baby girl. Something inside me wanted to reach out and stop the pastor. My heart said No! That black stuff does not belong on my sweet little child. But the pastor put them there, and every time I looked at them I was surprised all over again.

Little Lorraine quickly forgot the ashes on her head, and had no understanding of why they were there in the first place. She smiled and flirted with me with her big brown eyes all during church, and I was struck by her cheerfulness in contrast to the portent of death on her forehead.
My children are mortal and I would rather not think about that. It is easier to pretend that life will keep going just as it is right now, to imagine that I will be here to comfort and love my babies forever. It is not hard to join the world’s denial of death. There are plenty of things to distract myself with, and when then thoughts come anyway, I can soothe myself by putting it so far in the future that it feels less threatening.

As adults, we know that the smooth skin on our babies will not stay perfect forever. We know that toddlers (and teenagers) are not invincible, even though they believe they are. Yet we are still shocked when they get the high fevers we cannot treat, when they do something dangerous (like eat glass!) and have to be rushed to the ER. We are shocked to be reminded that we live in the “valley of the shadow of death,” and that our children are vulnerable to this death just as much as we are.

God’s word intrudes into our comfortable little worlds to remind us of what we already know: this life is not going to last forever. It is easy to get caught up in training our children merely for life in this world. While it is a good thing to have a house that runs smoothly and children that are clean and relatively kind to each other, that is only a part of our vocation as parents.
This life is not going to last forever. We need to say this out loud to ourselves, and to our children. We must remember those ashes, and take to heart those ER trips. We must teach our children that they live in fragile bodies in a dangerous world, and remind them that their hope is in God alone. Every minute of this life is a complete gift from a Father who loves us more than we can imagine—a Father who plans to have us with Him in heaven forever. His grace frees us to live with joy in these mortal bodies. His love frees us to giggle like toddlers, even under the shadow of death.

Christ is Risen—He is Risen indeed.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children-
Psalm 103:13-17

Sunday, February 22, 2009

To Aggie, my nap buddy

Aggie Sue, I love when you are my nap buddy. To see my little tornado relatively still and calm is a rare treat. I love the way you ask to hold my hand until you fall asleep.

Today you had a long seizure right before nap time that made you so tired you were asleep in my bed even before I laid the other kids down. I climbed in next to you anyway- I just wanted to be close to you. I held your little hand.

Like so many times before, I rested next to you and stroked your hair. My heart loved and ached, and my eyes were relieved to release a few tears that had been resting there all day. As I sighed over your raccoon eyes and I stroked your hair, I wondered where on that beautiful head they would cut should they have to do surgery. My spirit prayed fervently to the God who loves us both.

We laid there in the sunshine, you snored peacefully as I wrestled with my worries. The sun shone brightly even through the blinds, and soon I found myself relaxing into the quiet and warmth of the bed.

Aggie heading to Cleveland Clinic
I thank God for that moment, when you and I lay there in the sun, wrapped in warm blankets and love, enjoying a green pasture before our journey through the valley.

We have darkness to go through yet, my dear child. I am sure we will often hold hands through the darkness as we are doing now. I suspect we will get separated for some of it. I know we will be carried through all of it by Him who loves us both, the One who has been there before.

But for this sweet moment, we rest on our pillows that smell like home.

I wonder, after the days of valleys and darkness, will we be given moments like this again? Will we rest together, hold hands, and enjoy the warmth of each others love on pillows that smell like Home? Will we give goodnight kisses, smile, say I love you for the millionth time, in that Other place? Perhaps then the shadows of the valley will be distant memories. Perhaps the sun will be the Light of Christ, the light that chased away our fears and pain, and our “I love yous” will finally be sweet and pure and simple.
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