Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A New Website!

Friends,

My site has moved.  I would love for you to visit www.katiepolski.com for new posts.

Blessings to all!
Katie

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Shorter Perspective

I’ve written a lot about having different perspectives in life – an eternal perspective on our earthly journey, a humorous perspective on the mundane, and even a grace filled perspective as we trudge through frustrations that make us look way too much like Jekyll and Hyde.  

But the perspective that I’m most fascinated by is a child’s perspective.  Just a few weeks ago I knelt down so I that was the height of my eight year old daughter.  I looked up at all the people around me and asked her what life was like from this perspective. 

It's just shorter, mom.“

Oh. So that was a deep and meaningful conversation. 

I was thinking back to my son’s poetry reading when he was in second grade.  He wrote a poem about me from his perspective and recited it in front of all the kids and parents in his class.

Had you been watching my anticipation of this public reading, you would have laughed.  Out loud.  I had my camera all geared up and after listening to one accolade after another from the students to their mothers, I had a premature smile across my face awaiting anxiously the words my son might declare about me.  Perhaps he’d note that I was the master at packing his lunch every morning. Or maybe he’d declare how his mom was his biggest fan at his soccer games.  My son and I shared a mutual affection for his pet rat at the time, so I was sure there would be some kind of praise for purchasing the rodent. 

And then this from my boy:
My Mom.
Good Cook
Big Teeth
Smelly
My Mom. 

I laughed along with everyone else while becoming increasingly self-conscious of everyone staring at my apparent big teeth.  

Good. Grief.   What do big teeth even look like?  

Fortunately I had the wherewithal to not do a quick sniff of my armpits.  The teacher tried to explain on my behalf announcing that according to my son, his mother was an avid runner and was apparently often sweaty because of the sport. 

And Im pretty sure that really helped everyone’s mental picture.  

At least I was a good cook from my son’s standpoint.  Even though I smelled. 

I think it's fun (though admittedly embarrassing at times) to see life through the eyes of our kids, and so when my youngest daughter came home with a story she had read to her class that was written and illustrated about an important event in her life, I was as excited to delve into it as I was to hear my son’s poetry. 

And so this is Lily’s story, and it’s entitled: 

Max and the Vacuum Cleaner:

Once my dog Max was walking in the kitchen and my mom was getting ready to vacuum. 
And my mom started to but she did not see my dog so she vacuumed up my dog’s tale. 
My dog bit the vacuum. 
And one summer we went to the beach and we stayed for a long time. 
When we got home our dog forgot about us until I came in. 
I sat down and Max sat on my lap and slobbered on me. 
I didn’t like my dog any more.  I locked him in my closet and in the shower door. 
Now I love my dog and he hates me now.  He follows my mom too much. 
My dad does not like him.  But my dog loves him. 
But Max does not follow him around. 
The End. 



And so I inquired.  I asked her why she chose to write about this “significant” story in her life.  Why not write about, oh, something she learned at church or something fun we did on a family vacation or really anything other than mom sucking up the dog’s tail in the vacuum cleaner.   

She explained that those are just “not good stories, mom.” 

The curious thing is that while I can kind of recall each of these moments she wrote about, none of them were very memorable to me, other than vacuuming the dog’s tail, of course.  Totally an accident, just to clarify; I suspected my daughter was horrified by the event because of the way she dramatically coddled the dog who was clearly fine (I have to admit that I laughed pretty hard after making fun of poor Max for years because of his fear of vacuums.  I mean why run away from a vacuum, Max?  

Annnd…. that’s why.   Poor dog.  

In the mind of an eight-year old girl, when her teacher said “important and memorable,” her memories went to Max and the Vacuum, and it reminded me of something important as a mom:  what I deem as little and even insignificant moments in life are probably more important than I realize in the eyes of my children.  It takes bending down and having a shorter perspective to see just how important those moments really are.  

My actions and attitude, my rants and my raves are noticed by my kids (as are my big teeth and body odor). 

Thank the Lord for His grace because I mess up in parenting repeatedly, but I’m grateful for the reminder that the little moments matter along this journey of child rearing.  I want to notice these moments, savor them, and make them count.  Every once in a while, I want to kneel down and look at life through the eyes of my kids.  I want to see from my daughter's perspective how important the few minutes of concentrated time are when she asks me to watch her “show,” even when I'm in the middle of other tasks.  I want to look through the eyes of my oldest when she pops her head in late at night even though I’m crawling with exhaustion, and I want to know for a few minutes the excitement my son feels when he tells me about a video game, even though I can't quite follow most of what he's saying.  (I'm getting old).   

But my son matters to me.  And those five minutes matter to him.

I was at the beach last week in the same spot my family has vacationed for the last twenty-seven years.  I cried when we walked up to the beach; it wasn’t the beauty that overtook my emotions but the memories of my mom and dad, my grandma, grandpa, sisters, and all the years of laughing, crying, conversations, card playing, and…little moments. 

I’ll never forget being a preteen during one of these vacations and sitting on the beach listening to my parents discuss possible advent themes for the upcoming season.  While they talked, I made my way to the ocean.  My dad followed unexpectedly and we bobbed around in the water for what seemed like a long time while I told him about all sorts of things that were important to me at the time:  youth group, basketball, piano competitions, and a variety of other topics.

My dad may or may not have remembered those moments, but I will never forget them.  From my perspective, dad took the time to join me and listen to me.  From my perspective, he showed that what I had to say mattered to him.  It may have been a little moment for my dad at the time, but man, those few moments meant the world to me.  He was bending down and seeing life from my shorter perspective.   

The last time I was at this beach I sat on the shore holding the phone out for my bedridden mom to hear the ocean waves.  She cried restlessly on the other end while I cried quietly on mine.  I sat on the shore for a while during this recent vacation thinking about other little moments with mom and tearfully considered what will only be memories from here on out for me and my sisters.  While reminiscing, I also thought how much fun my youngest has each summer collecting all the shells that surrounded me.  

I looked at the waves and smiled at the fact that my son cannot contain himself when he sees a red flag on the beach, warning everyone that the waves are a bit dangerous.  The bigger, the better.  And I may or may not have started humming a One Direction song at one point remembering my oldest introducing one of the band's newest releases while sitting on the beach.  

I have many little moments from my own childhood all tucked away that I'll never forget.  But my hope, my prayer, in that in the coming days, weeks, months and years I'll continue to put down the book or the phone for a few minutes in order to collect a few seashells, body surf a few waves, and listen along to some of the newest music. 

It's all about kneeling down and seeing life through their eyes.  Even if it means One Direction.   Even if it means learning you're a little smelly with large teeth.  Even it means merely having a shorter perspective.   









Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Luxe and Sanity: Lost and Found

After almost a year, my seven year old daughter still has a hamster named Luxe.  

You just can't understand how surprised I am by this reality.  Luxe has been cuddled (squeezed),  played with (tortured), and handled regularly by a sweet seven year old girl (sometimes monster).   

Just a few weeks ago while Lily was playing (torturing) with Luxe, she called out:  "Mom!  Luxe doesn't like roller coasters!  But maybe she does a little."  

Yep.  And nope.  I don't have the specifics...

But man oh man, for all the times I've thought of having mercy on the animal and kindly handing her over to a more gentle soul, I'm always reminded of the depth of love that Lily has for this creature.  We had a few kids over for dinner one night, and I found some directions on Luxes cage that Lily had written for her friends:  

Please do not touch.  If you touch she might get out.  So DO NOT TOUCH.  

Luxe has escaped her cage a number of times longing, I'm confident, for a life beyond the hands of her handler; perhaps she's looking for a quieter, saner life... maybe one without roller coasters.   But through her tears of despair when Luxe has briefly escaped in the past, Lily has always managed to find the animal.  

Sorry, Luxe.

We traveled back from my grandpa's funeral this last weekend.  Exhausted, we trudged through the fourth airport of the weekend and made plans for a late night arrival back home that evening.

And exhaustion is what I blame for my free flowing tears over a text from home informing us that Luxe was lost.  She'd escaped and had been gone the entire day.  I had a moment walking through the airport when I actually asked myself:  Why, for the love of the world, are you crying over a hamster? Because exhaustion.  Because two funerals in a month.  Because I could visualize the end of my sanity.  But mostly...because Lily.

I knew that once Lily received the news, the last leg home would be filled with tears, drama, speeches, more tears, and perhaps even plans for another funeral service.  Because we've had a service for a pet before.  The goldfish had a service and burial.

Duh.

While walking through the airport, I called a friend to talk with her....about the hamster.  Listen, if you don't have a friend who will not slam the phone down when she realizes that the tears are flowing because of a lost hamster....well, you've just got to get one.  And if you don't have a friend who will actually GO TO YOUR HOUSE to look for said hamster....these kind are few and far between.  But they're rock star friends.  Everyone needs an "I will drop what I'm doing and will FIND that hamster for you" kind of friend.

Since the hamsters cage is upstairs, I assured my friend that the hamster would probably be upstairs looking for a new home...a safe and quiet space...without roller coasters.

But alas, the hamster was no where to be found.  My rockstar friend couldn't even find evidence of a lost rodent - no drippings, no chewing, no missing treats that were put out to lure Luxe in (though the dog enjoyed several along the way).  The hamster was just gone.

I couldn't blame Luxe for escaping.  I kind of felt excited for her ensuing adventure and the probability of a saner life without roller coasters and squeezes and moments like:  "Mom, look!  When you pull down her little lip you can see Luxes yellow teeth!"  But I also resented the hamster for the news I had to share with my seven year old.  The same seven year old that asked me at different points during the weekend:   "Do you think Luxe got food?  Do you think anyone played with Luxe?  Do you think Luxe got out?  Do you think Luxe misses me?  

Yes, no, no, and...um....not at all.  But I kept that last bit to myself.

My husband advised me to keep this newly found, and potentially devastating for our seven year old, information to myself until we arrived back in St. Louis.

But sometimes I do stupid things like not listen to my sane husband's advice.  And thank the Lord one of us is sane.  Thank goodness we were not both crying over hamsters.  For the love of tears and hamsters, with that thought... things could have been far worse...

So, I told her.  And her reaction did not go as I suspected.  It was far worse.  Through the sobs and the overly dramatic hand gestures, she said many things in a very loud voice in the middle of the airport:

Why would you tell me this?  Why couldn't you have waited until we were home to tell me this horrible thing?  

Because your dad is sane and I'm stupid.

Why on earth would she run away?  Where on this earth is she going to go?  

Because she's tortured.  And somewhere that does not give roller coaster rides to hamsters.

What if she is hurt or stuck or bleeding or electrocuted?  

Honestly, the electrocuted concern made me laugh a little.  I just picture these kinds of things and then I laugh.  It's only mildly disturbing.  

So, I tried to comfort her.  I tried to assure her that Luxe was OK and we were going to work very hard to find her when we got home.  "Lily, Luxe is not hurt or electrocuted."  

"What if her legs got cut off somehow?  How would she crawl back home?"  

I'm not even sure that the loss of limbs would make her go back to whence she came, but one never knows.  "Lily, Luxe is fine."  

"How do you know?  You're not God!  Only God knows all things."  

And so that was the end of that conversation.  And as predicted there were continued tears and anxiety the rest of the way home.

Once we landed we came up with a fast getaway plan, which Lily thought was for Luxes sake but which we knew was merely for our sanity's sake.  Our carry on bags had to be checked because of the small plane, so the kids and I walked quickly to the carousel.  We grabbed four of the five checked bags and then waited....and waited...and waited for the pink and purple Scooby-Doo suitcase which never came out.

Lily's suitcase didn't make it home.

I stomped my way over to the baggage office, smoke could have probably been seen coming from my head, and I encountered a line.  Fourteen people were ahead of me waiting to report loss luggage.

Aaaaand....loss of sanity officially occurred.

I had a proverbial temper tantrum in the line waiting to report that Scooby-Doo was missing.  I said, not under my breath in any way, shape, or form:  "This is why we pack in CARRY ON bags so that we can be allowed to CARRY ON our bags and not have to check our CARRY ON bags.  I will no longer be flying with an airline that says you can have CARRY ON bags but does not allow you to CARRY ON your BAG."  My son wondered who exactly I was talking to.

Whatever.

And my attitude became even more awesome when Lily started crying over all this extra time waiting that was making Luxe "even more lost," and my son started complaining that his iPad was "almost out of battery completely."  It was like I could momentarily identify with the hamster:  I needed to get out of there.  I needed to escape the chaos.  Could I actually hear the annoying squeaking of a hamster wheel?  I was losing it.  

If you have not experienced an adult tempter-tantrum before, they're ugly.  While they vary in form, mine included very loud huffing and puffing, louder than normal chastising of children for doing things like, oh, sitting and standing, and texting angry-faced emojis to people without explanation.

Yep.

But the tantrum escalated when I became the second person in line.  Because when I became the second person in line, a woman came and stood suspiciously to my side as though she might just attempt to jump in front of me in line.

There was a part of me that wanted her to cut in front of me; I was ready to *talk* with her about all the injustice in the world and all the reasons that a woman like her would feel the need to jump in the line in front of a woman like me - a woman who was exhausted, who had three children...and dying iPads.....and lost hamsters.

So when she actually took a step in front of me,  I had no qualms about putting my hand on her shoulder when I said these words:

"Um, Ma,am, I'm pretty sure you were BEHIND me in this line."  

I almost didn't recognize the immaturity of what was my voice.  "Um" and "Pretty sure?!"  I might as well have sprinkled in a few "Like whatever" and "This is totally unfair" because that would have fit my behavior.

The woman turned and looked at me with wide eyes....and then began speaking in a different language.  The man who was in front of me in line turned around and said in an appropriately stern voice:

"Excuse me!  This is my wife!  We just flew in from Indonesia and lost our luggage."  

Oh.

And so I responded responsibly and maturely:  I  looked down at my phone and began pretend texting someone.   I PRETEND TEXTED.  Citizen of the year right there, folks.

Good. Grief.

Once I was able to gather myself (and stop pretend texting), I pondered my behavior, considered the fact that lost Scooby-Doo and Luxe were just not the end of the world, and then imagined how nice it would be to crawl into a hole and briefly escape the chaos I had created around me.

I apologized profusely to the couple once I had declared Scooby-Doo missing and felt the sanity slowly begin to enter back in as I restrained myself from blaming my short fuse on our lost hamster.

It took Lily thirty minutes to find Luxe.  The hamster had made her way down three flights of stairs, gathering treats along the way, crawled into a closet, up a hamper, and had begun making a little home for herself in the basket filled with stuffed animals.  Talk about determination - and a really, really great plan.  Slowly but surely normalcy was settling in.

And look what arrived the next day:
Luxe:  

You almost made it.  

But let's face it...there are worse situations than little girl roller coasters (worse situations like having temper tantrums in airports and yelling at foreigners for standing next to their husbands in line).  We can't completely escape the chaos, so let's just embrace it and not lose our sanity by doing things like escaping cages and grabbing stranger's shoulders.  Keep your cool and realize, rodent, that it could always be worse. 


....Um, but for you maybe not....
























Tuesday, April 19, 2016

How Wonderful!

My dad used to play the mini violin in the air for me growing up.   This happened often.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's the sympathy violin - the one that responds readily to the "woe is me's" and the "my life is the hardest life in the history of life" kind of phrases.  Those moments with my dad looked something like this:


It's not that my dad wasn't sympathetic; it's that I was a complainer.  I complained about everything:  the cream of wheat dad made was too hot, my pop-tarts weren't hot enough, basketball was exhausting, piano was too hard, I had more homework than anyone in the entire high school, and my bangs would never. ever. stay sprayed the right way.  

Life was tough.  And so I complained about it.  

And so should I really be surprised when my seven year old daughter rolls around on the ground (um, not exaggerating) over the state of our car?   This is the train of complaints heard most recently about this horrid problem:  How do you expect me to sit in this car with crumbs everywhere?  The crumbs sit under me and make me itch!  And then all I do is itch all the way to school...and at school...I just itch and it's all because of this car!  And I have to hold all my stuff in the car so my stuff doesn't touch the crumbs and then my legs get way too tired from holding my stuff.  And I can't even run at recess!   

It's a tough life she leads.  And it gets even tougher when I remind her who put the crumbs in her seat in the first place.  

I often think about my grandfather when I get sucked into the ease of complaining about my misfortunes in life.  And it does happen with ease, doesn't it?  It's just way too easy to complain about what could have been better, what should be easier, and what isn't going right.  

But my grandpa just had a totally different way of looking at life.  Life to my grandfather was wonderful.  

I will always remember the questions he'd ask about about our ongoings and with each description (difficult or not), he'd respond with an emphatic and hearty: "Wonderful!"  He'd open his arms for an embrace and say with a smile, "Wonderful!"  

Several years ago, grandpa and I were chatting in front of the fireplace in my house while they were in town for a visit.  I asked him how he was doing since he was in the midst of trying to pass several kidney stones:    

"Are you in pain, grandpa?"  

"Yes," and he said it with a smile.  "It's just so wonderful to be here with you all."  

And not another word the entire evening about the pain plaguing his body.  There was never a complaint about the suffering he faced in life:  cancer,  heart issues,  even losing a daughter...my grandfather never ever complained.  

So what was it that was so wonderful for my grandfather?  How is it that life was worthy to live without complaint?  

He loved Jesus with everything he had.  His relationship with Jesus was clear in every conversation and in every aspect of his life.  The saving work of Jesus was wonderful to my grandfather, and his trust in this Savior flowed out in a fierce way.  I could not sit down with grandpa without being reminded that God is in control, that prayer is necessary, and that Scripture is powerful.  In life and in death, he knew the Word is penetrating to the soul.  

He was on his knees before God with every difficulty our family faced and with every praise for the One from whom all blessings flow.  I desire so much to emulate his perspective on life.  His lack of complaining was not inauthentic; he was honest while holding tightly to the promises found in Scripture.  

And if those promises penetrate our hearts, how can we not rejoice in the midst of difficulty?  If we truly believe that our help comes from the LORD the maker of heaven and earth, how can we not respond with praise in the trials?  How can we not give thanks for both the peaks and the valleys, as difficult as that may be at times.  

Our grumblings are sometimes so trivial in light of eternity.  Our small complaints are mere moments of forgetfulness for what we have been given even now:  Life.  Breath.  Shelter.  Family.  Friendships.  Church homes.  Beautiful scenery.  Jobs.  Sunsets and flowers and food that tastes so good, and what we have been promised will come:  Eternity with Jesus.  A new heavens and new earth filled with all goodness and perfection.  Life without sin and sorrow.  

And this is nothing less than wonderful.  It's wonderful.  

Yesterday I called to check on my grandpa and while on the phone, it became clear in a matter of seconds that grandpa was going home to Jesus.  I pulled into the parking lot at my kid's school and wept along with my aunt and grandma on the other end of the phone.  I listened over the speaker to the heart-wrenching sounds of grief as grandpa took his last breath.  In that same moment I watched as a group of young girls headed out excitedly for a birthday party.  

"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the LORD."  

And the grief was devastatingly wonderful as I listened:  "Do you see Jesus?  You're surrounded by angels and glory."  

Last night when I went to tuck in my youngest, I found this on her desk:  

People who died in my family:  Ya Ya, March 15, 2016; Pa Pa Rodney, March 9, 2003; Grandpa B., April 18, 2016.  

"And mom, they're all in heaven with Jesus so we will see them again."  

Be still my soul.  

Isn't it wonderful.  




  










Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Grip

I recently came across this beautiful quote by John Piper:

"Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be.  Grieve the losses.  Then wash your face.  Trust God.  And embrace the life you have."  

These words have saturated my thoughts during the last couple of weeks.

What does it actually look like to grieve?   Whether the death of someone dearly loved, a job lost that gave security, a perplexed place in life that has caused fear and anxiety, or a relationship broken that seemed steadfast, whatever the difficulty may be, grief can grip with a determined hold, and the question is not if we will face the pain of loss but when we experience grief's embrace, what do we do with its firm hold?

Let grief remain for a time.  

So my husband has been very patient with an unbelievable roller coaster of emotion after losing my mom:  tears over salmon that was just so good (I hadn't been out to dinner for a while), more tears over mom's jewelry which led to tears over the fact that I don't have jewelry to pass on to my own kids....which led to tears over the fact that I just don't really like jewelry.  

Good grief.  Kind of literally.  

Then there has been the anger over making school lunches (But then let's just be honest, school moms, this is not a seasonal anger.  You know what I'm talking about.)  Never-the-less, my emotions have been larger than life. And my poor husband has been a trooper with it all, not asking me to buck up and think straight, but instead he has allowed me to remain in the grip of grief for a while knowing that sometimes it has broad and unexplainable effects.

I've shared with a few friends that I'm beginning to understand the Old Testament mourning period.  After mourning for a week or so in our day and age, folks innocently start popping their heads around the corner saying in all various ways:  you good now?  you ready to get back to the good old daily grind?  They only cautiously pop their head around the corner, though, just in case tears start flowing over the jewelry they may be wearing - it's best to have a plan for a fast getaway from a griever.  I mean, can you blame them?  I'd draw out my getaway plan and put it securely in my pocket if I was confronted with someone crying over salmon.

But in the Old Testament folks would mourn for weeks and months at a time and it wasn't uncommon to find them grieving in very public ways:  ripping their clothes, wearing sackcloth instead of regular clothing, and...removing all their jewelry.

Because even folks in the OT had jewelry to pass on to their kids.

Whatever.

And they wept...even hiring professional mourners who would wail loudly on their behalf for hours or days (Ex. 33:4; 2 Sam. 14:2).

My tears over salmon and jewelry just don't seem so over the top in this context.  There is something to John Piper's words when he says to occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be.  Grieve the losses.  I don't always do this well.  In the past it's been much easier to let out a good cry then quickly sweep the rest of the deep emotions under the rug in order to get downstairs and make school lunches (stupid school lunches).

But let the grief grip.  

Being decidedly honest before Jesus and crying out smilier words as the Psalmist when he says, "My eye wastes away because of grief... " is good and right and it's what ultimately leads to the loosening of the grip.  He is the only answer to the grip.  Jesus Himself knew grief beyond grief.  He was acquainted with grief, Scripture tells us.  He was familiar with it, accustomed to it, and He knew it well.   Sit for a time in the embrace of the One who understands grief, empathizes with it, and loves us in the midst of it.  Drink deeply of His grace and mercy.

And then allow Jesus to loosen the grip.

There is grace in grieving, but the grief shouldn't debilitate us indefinitely; rather, our grief should motivate us to move forward with unabashed trust in Jesus.

And this is exactly what Piper is reminding us to do:  "...wash your face.  Trust God.  And embrace the life you have."


It's not necessarily a quick transition, but after sitting in grief's grip for a time, there is something refreshing about standing, washing off the tears, and embracing the here and now.  I'm learning that kids help in pulling the here and now scene in front of my eyes when I'm having trouble walking forward.

This embracing of my current life happened for me on April fools day, and it involved my youngest monster...I mean child... who had woken at the crack of dawn in anticipation of the practical joke she couldn't wait to play on me.

I had just finished working out and was standing in the living room looking intently at my mom's rings and began deeply weeping (I'm telling you...there's something about the jewelry...).  I walked into the bathroom for tissues and discovered that an entire tube of toothpaste had been squeezed out and spread from the top of the sink to the bottom.  My white, porcelain sink was CREST blue.

Holy mad momma.  Because how was I supposed to remember it was April fools day?

Now Lily and I were both crying.  I was crying over rings and she was crying, and I quote, "because you are mad at me for squeezing out the whole toothpaste!"

Um...yes.

I sat on the floor and the "here and now" came rushing at me with force.  My baby girl wanted to play a joke.  She wanted to see me laugh.  It was April fools day and although it was the worst possible joke to play on a mom on a school morning...when the lunches weren't even made yet....she just wanted to see me laugh.

So, I sat on the floor and laughed.

And I tried to join in the fun by playing my own practical joke later in the day (not my forte, admittedly):


"Mom, I need to teach you how to do jokes.  That was a bad one."  

And there's my reality.  There's my here and now.  Hello sweet blessings that I've been given in this life; there are too many to count.

Stand up.  Walk forward.  Wipe the tears.  Loosen grief's grip and continue to hold on tightly to Jesus.

His is the only grip we ultimately need.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Gravity and Brokenness

We’re broken, finite people.   I don’t always want to believe that, and there have been times in my life when I’ve tried to defy this reality.  My youngest likes to hear the story about the time I broke my foot in elementary school.  I’m pretty sure it’s not the broken foot that fascinates her but it’s the reason that it broke:   

I was trying to fly.   Duh. 

There was not a soul who could convince me that my plan was ridiculous.  I was sure that if I could get up …just high enough….that I could make this flying thing happen.  My youngest loves to hear about this bizarre occurrence from my past and when she does, these are the kind of questions that follow:  “Did you actually fly?  Like maybe for five seconds did you fly?  Can you show me how high you jumped so I can try too?” 

Um, no - to everything.  

You probably couldn't fly because your arms weren’t strong enough. You didn’t do workouts like me when you were my age.  Let me show you my muscle. So, I could probably do it mom…

I bring up gravity regularly when we discuss this story because, well, who can argue with gravity?  My hope is that her wide eyes that I just know are imagining jumping off the playground bridge because her muscles are bigger than mine, will be somewhat…um….squelched.  But then on one occasion, she said this: 

But God could have let you fly if he wanted to. 

Yep.  But He didn’t.  I wasn’t made to fly in my broken state.  And as a child, my fractured, broken bones reminded me of that reality for weeks after my attempt to defy gravity. 

My mom had some tough last days this side of heaven, an ever present reminder of this broken physical state.  One particular day, while she was in and out of consciousness, I watched her wrestle to sit up on her own, even move her leg off the bed in an attempt to stand up.  I pushed her leg back into the bed with a sense of guilt because pushing it under the covers was a way of saying to my strong mother:  let your strength go.  Be still and give into your weakness, mom.    It didn’t feel right to say it much less write it. 

But the process of dying should never feel “Okay.” Death was never the intention.  The reality of our frailty is not celebratory, and death is not good; in fact, I’ve seen first hand how ugly it can be.  Death is a result of this broken world.

Jesus Himself lamented death in the book of John when His friend Lazarus died.  Those watching the face of the Son of God exclaimed, “See how he loved him!”  (Jn 11:36)

I’ve thought many times about the weakness that this disease caused in my mom through the years. Since her diagnosis only three years ago, she has fought to defy the implications of a brain illness:  She read out loud to her grandkids every chance she had, but over time she simply could no longer form the words;  she traveled to the beach regularly, but soon enough it became impossible to function in a regular room without hospital equipment. 

And yet, with the loss of speech, strength, and simple abilities, she surprised us all with a unique strength of spirit that was displayed through her legs and her hand.  

Just three weeks before she died, mom made one last visit to her home church.  Though she was essentially wheel chair bound, mom was determined to walk down the aisle and out those church doors after the brief service.  I couldn't have been more proud to watch that ten minute struggle down the aisle as she clung to the neck of her caretaker.  I laughed imagining her twirling around and kicking the wheel chair to the side.  Because really, she probably would have if she could have. 

And while she didn't have the use of her right hand, she used that left hand to communicate everything she possible could, even in the last days.  Mom pointed, hugged, pushed cups off places they shouldn't be placed (truth), and grabbed on to the things she wanted.  That hand stayed so strong throughout her deterioration.  
   
But, the reality is that we are broken.  She was broken.  The strength in her hand and legs could not defy death; it showed it’s ugly face and we lament it's existence, just as Jesus did. 

But, that’s not the end of the story.  Praise God it’s not the end of the story.  We weren’t saying good-bye to her forever when we whispered in her ear:  “It's ok to fly to Jesus now, mom.” 



For every believer in Jesus who has kissed good-bye a precious loved one, we’re not giving into death.  Death does not have the victory, though it feels in our weakness that it has somehow won. 

Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” 

No.  Death has not won, but it reminds us of our brokenness without a Savior.  Without Jesus, we fear the grave.  With him, we have defeated it. 

Jesus is so close in grief.  My sisters and I know His presence fills  the gap where our parents used to stand.   Praise God.  And praise God for the brokenness that forces us to long for what mom is experiencing now:  


Seeing her Redeemer, 

running without growing weary,  

celebrating without sin,  

worshipping with a restored heart,  

feasting with loved ones...  

and maybe there's even some flying.  

Mom is broken no more.  





 


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Just Dance

My husband and I were watching Footloose with our oldest daughter the other night, and, of course, we started dancing during the movie.  I showed my eldest all my really cool moves, and it didn't take long for her dad to join in (For the record, neither of us can actually dance.  We pretty much look like rabid monkeys when we try to bust a move.  Have fun imagining that.)

And, of course, my teenager joined in laughing and dancing with her mom and dad shouting: "This is so awesome!  You guys are so awesome!"

Not at all.  In reality my daughter was basically horrified.  She caught our dance on video for evidence, she says, of why she may or may not need to be adopted at a later time.  And she seems to enjoy sharing these videos.  She's so generous.

"Mom," she said after I had accidentally tripped over the bench and fallen on top of her, "you guys are just not normal."

And neither were my parents when I was a teenager, of course.  My parents were just, plain odd when I was in junior high.  Take my dad, for example, whose nickname for me was "Mongrel."  Yep.

"Hey, Mongrel!  Time for dinner."  So, this sort of command was common, and even somewhat affectionate coming from my dad, but while I heard, "Hey, Katie come and eat,"  my friends probably heard, "Hey, crossbreed!  Come get your feed."  It just wasn't a terribly conventional nickname, but I'll never forget it.  

And then there was my mom:  a woman who at the age of sixteen had the awesome opportunity to watch the completion of the St. Louis Arch.  With all the excitement in St. Louis at the time, she and a friend decided to attend the opening day at the arch.  When they arrived for the big event, the line to get in the doors was incredibly long.  Noticing that the handicap folks were allowed to go straight to the front of the line, my mom did what any normal person would do.  She acted like she was blind so she could jump to the front.

Duh.

Oh, yes she did.  I asked her on many occasions why a blind person would want to experience the sights from the top of the arch.  "Duh," she'd say.

Kidding, kidding....

Oh, mom.  She would just smile a conniving smile and remind us that she was one of the first people to enter the doors of the arch, and she held in every bit of "oooh" and "ahhh" whilst at the top.  Instead, she stared straight ahead with her friend guiding her along, both relishing in their bizarre accomplishment.

So, not much normalcy there either.  And definitely a story that even the grandkids have remembered through the years: "Tell us that story of when Ya Ya pretended like she couldn't see so that she could go up in the arch to see what it was like!"  Yep.

But this abnormal behavior goes back even farther.  When my parents were engaged, my mom's grandpa was anxious to meet the young beau who had taken my mom's heart.  So, my dad and great-grandpa met.  Mom introduced dad to her grandfather saying, "Grandpa, this is my future husband."  My grandfather, who could see clear as crystal, held out his hand and said, "Yes, well, I'm blind and can't see you." And my dad bought it.

Hook, line, and sinker. For the remainder of the night, healthy-eyes grandpa Witmer was blind as a bat as far as my dad knew.  And I'm pretty sure no one's ever going to forget that story.

But then there's also my husband, lest you think this uncharacteristic behavior is one sided.   In college he would dress up like gandhi.   Why, you wonder?  Well, because new students would visit the campus.

Duh.

And so he would greet new students dressed like this:


And then he would say in his gandhi accent:  "This is the flower of life.  This is the flower of death."  And it would look something like this:  


His college friends will still talk about gandhi when reminiscing about good old college days, and there's just not much more I need to say about that.  The pictures speak a thousand words.  Or create strange thoughts.  Or produce questions.  Or just leave you bewildered.  Something along those lines.   

Just this last week my husband and I had a proud parent moment while watching my son impersonate Napoleon Dynamite in front of his entire school.  Yes, that's right.  All in one sentence: proud parents and impersonating Napoleon Dynamite.  While each class prepared group lip syncs, Jrod approached us with the idea of doing the Napoleon Dynamite dance by himself, and all we could think was:  

Awesome.  

He spent hours learning from tutorials, chatting about his progress with friends from church, and he watched the dance over and over....and over again.  And then he did it.  My son danced a choreographed dance by himself, dressed up as the ultimate nerd, and while it was pretty unusual for an elementary school lip sync, it was pretty awesome.  


And really, this is something he'll remember forever.  It's probably something I'll remember forever, standing and clapping for this odd dance like a mother whose kid just won the Nobel prize. There's just something great about doing things a little uncharacteristically, living fully in the moment, and embracing the abnormal every once-in-a-while.  Dance.  Greet others like gandhi.  Wear a huge wig, moon boots, and bust a move.  Why not?  Have fun, enjoy this life we've been given, and make memories along the way.  Life's too short to only be normal all the time.  And I'm pretty sure my eldest daughter is starting to embrace this herself:   


video


  Cheers, my girl!  Mom has videos too....