A long time back, long before we had kids of our own, I remember talking to a friend who had just had a baby boy. As she stared into his perfect little face with his rosebud lips, she said, “We’re praying for trials for him, so that he can grow closer to God.” At the time I took this as the kind of ultra-spiritual Christian-ese tripe that we Christians sometimes say, never realizing the insidious line of thinking to which she was actually subscribing.

Because guess what? We really really don’t need to pray for the bad stuff to happen. It just kind of…does, you know?

I was listening to Christian radio in the car this past week and found myself singing along to MercyMe’s Bring the Rain

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there’ll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that’s what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain.

I don’t doubt the good intentions behind this song, please understand. And I love the idea that we can bring glory to God, even amidst the worst time of our lives. But I, unequivocally, am NOT going to ask God to bring the rain. He might bring it or He might allow my world to flood with crummy circumstances, or He might bring me an unbroken stretch of sun. He’s God — He can do whatever He wants and I try (and sometimes fail, admittedly) to be okay with that. Life can be full of suffering, far more suffering than I understand in my insulated life, but I sure don’t want any more suffering than I have to endure.

Suffering in and of itself is completely non-redemptive.

God, on the other hand, can redeem suffering. What with Him being God and all.

To make this personal, there is nothing redemptive or good or desired about my mom’s cancer or my dad’s heart problems. Or the health problems and marriage heartaches of my friends. Quite simply, lots of situations suck. And I guess I find it to be a dangerous line of thinking to assign any positivity to suffering whatsoever.

All that said, it is the season for thankfulness, and I feel acutely conscious of my blessings: tremendously supportive (and I mean TREMENDOUSLY) family and friends, great great kids, a husband who hangs tough on the worst days…humor…good books…my six little blog readers (I mean, would it kill some of you lurkers to comment?? I mean, assuming I have a couple of lurkers.)…church…silly things like my cat and two new shirts I love from Old Navy. I find myself appreciating things big and little. And while I’m weary of this recent spate of rainy days, I am ever so grateful for the nearness of God in this time. While I don’t want Him bringing the rain, I sure am grateful for His umbrella.

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In praise of toughness

November 18, 2007

My dad’s surgery has been rescheduled for Thursday, December 6. So…onward.

I’ve been thinking about this post for the last several days, sure that my words won’t do the situation and the person involved any real justice. But I keep coming back to the fact that I have to try, that maybe my effort will somehow explain to me and to you what I consider one of my life’s great and mysterious truths.

My mom is one tough woman. You might not know it to look at her anymore. You might be fooled by the shakiness in her hands — a post chemotherapy side effect — or you might focus on her humped back — an osteoporosis and quite probably, multiple myeloma side effect. You could see her need to nap most afternoons as some kind of concession or defeat. And true, she appears that one stiff gust of wind could knock her down. Her body seems spindly to me these days and even her face has thinned somewhat alarmingly.

But here’s where you would discover the difference between external and internal strength. My mom was not supposed to be alive today, at least according to the first oncologist she saw, the foolish ass who wrote her off as having no more than six months. But ah, he gave her a gift too, with his brusque and fatalistic attitude. He made her mad. He made her determined. And with the help of a new and significantly better oncologist, she lived. Hell, she thrived. She resumed her life — her laundry, her house-keeping, her fondness for scouring down antiques, her love of her grandchildren. In short, my mom had toughness reserves completely unrealized by her first oncologist. And probably, to some extent, by her very own family.

So now she comes to this new point of life crisis — where my dad needs major and dangerous heart surgery and where she, herself, is struggling against the cancer coming back full force and more recently, a debilitating and disfiguring condition in her jaw. No one would fault her for flagging just a bit or for giving up all together. But somehow, she isn’t giving up. Instead, she talks longingly of spring when my dad will feel better in his recovery and when her cancer will be under better control. I suspect that she knows, on some level, that neither of these things may come to pass. Chance is a good thing, though, and that’s what she’s banking on. She’s putting one foot in front of the other and getting through each day so that she can do the same the next day.

After I took her to the oncologist on Thursday, she wanted me to take her grocery shopping. She could have given me her list, and I would have gladly done this for her. But no, she wanted to go grocery shopping. So she propped her tired body on the cart and went up and down the aisles picking out everything she wanted. Then we went back to her home and put the groceries away — just so, because my mom has impeccable organization skills (something she apparently did not pass on to her daughter, but anyway). Then she took me to lunch. So like the many many times we’ve done before. Sure there are differences: we make sure we have her handicapped placard to minimize her need to walk far, and it takes her longer to chew and swallow because of her jaw condition (though she’d be the first to tell you that she’s always been a slow eater). But she’s still my mom, still has the same acerbic wit, the same interest in all-things-me that only a mother can offer, the same kind heart and spirit, the same stories she has always shared.

So often in this process I focus on what my mom — and frankly, by extension, I — have lost. But she’s still my mom. And she’s tougher than I think I’ll ever be.

Well, crap.

November 13, 2007

My dad is sick with a sinus infection. And this means that surgery can’t be done this week because of risk of infection to the heart valve. So…we’re in wait and see mode to see what the surgeon wants to do to reschedule. I mean, heavens, the surgery is plenty risky without factoring in the additional risk of the new valve(s) getting infected (which kind of kills you). I keep trying to believe that there must be a reason, that God is in control and all that. My poor mom is about to have a nervous breakdown. Here they’ve been psyching themselves up for the surgery — and now we’re going to have to put it off. I take my mom to her oncology appointment on Thursday, and she’s due to start a new medicine, so maybe she’ll feel better with it, which will make her stronger?

Nothing else of great note around here. I’ve been sick, Rob was sick, and now Abby has the bronchial cough snot snuffle stuff now. (That kind of sounds like a dance step. “And cough snot snuffle to your left!”)

I’m weary. And I feel like having the holidays happen about as much as I feel like having a hot rod shoved up my…well, you know. And Ohio State’s loss hit our family hard, as those of you who know Dan might imagine. Saturday night was rough — full of Dan sobbing and pounding the floor and pacing and muttering, “Why, God, why?” — but he’s recovering nicely. By Sunday he was telling us that he still loves his Buckeyes and he’s proud of the season they’ve had. Real progress over the week-long funk after the national championship debacle. I think that he’s learning the Buckeye fan mantra of “There’s always next year.”

Abby’s had a Robin Hood PROJECT (yes, the caps are necessary) to do (Beware my friends: fourth grade is full of projects. I’ve already soaked loads of paper in tea to make parchment for her Middle Ages project, a time during which I prayed for the Black Death to take me, but to no avail.). Abby and I are either really really good about doing these kinds of things together or…not. She’s had to make a Robin Hood game board and come up with rules, etc. for the game. Now, anybody knows that my ideas would be faaaar superior to hers and my vision more sophisticated, but dammit she kept insisting on making it her project. Whatever. I thought that we might come to actual blows a couple of times over the weekend. But I let her prevail, and guess what? It looks like a fourth grader did it instead of a fourth grader’s mother. Luckily I’m not a control freak. Stop laughing. It’s rude.

And Rob has been involved in no more conflagrations at school. So that’s something.

So…I guess pray for health for my dad and pray for the soonest safest re-scheduled time. Crap.

Nothing serious…

November 5, 2007

…but wow, the phonics reader books that come home with my sons…painful my friends, inane and ridiculous as they try to tell some kind of story that makes a modicum of sense…and with twins, it’s twice the books and twice the hilarity.

But I think that this past week’s reading begs some very important questions:

  • Why did Peg put the wig on the log where Pup and Kit could devour it? And why was the wig wet? For that matter, why did Peg need a wig in the first place? Her hair looked fine to me — blond and cropped and cute, and the wig was very Elvira, Mistress of the Dark…what does Peg do in her spare time anyway?
  • What was Tab smoking before he took the nap about the cab? Where did the ram come from? And why it did he look so menacing?
  • Why did Jan take pup on the bus in the bag when that was clearly against the city’s transportation laws? And no wonder the man got mad when the pup ate his cone. Dammit, we all like our ice cream, and the pup was way out of line. Jan too. Kick her butt off the bus, I say.
  • Cop Cat scares me. Why is his hat so big? How can he see to catch criminals?
  • Since when do seeds talk? And Weed was really snotty to Rose — ha, ha loser — you never had a bud (the flower kind, I hasten to add). Bug was right about you all along! I shouldn’t have been taken in by your smooth talk.
  • Why did Sam’s mom let the pig in his room? Couldn’t she see that this would bring nothing but mess?

If anyone can answer any of these important questions for me, please let me know. I’m plagued with curiosity. Plagued, I tell you.

Two quick questions

November 5, 2007

Why must all my parents’ medical appointments occur at the butt crack of dawn?

Do doctors go to bed at like 5:00 pm to be alert for said appointments?

Just askin’.

…but then really, I don’t think any of you read for that anyway (hopefully).

It’s a bullet pointer.

  • I am not a talisman kind of gal — never had a rabbit’s foot or a lucky penny. I have items of great sentimental value, some of them quite silly, but nothing I would call a lucky charm. Since my mom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, I have worn one of the ubiquitous cancer bracelets — in burgundy, the color for mm. I actually had to buy a second one about a year ago when the first one broke, and commented to Tim that it must be a good thing to work my way through a bracelet, because it means my mom is still alive and fighting. Well, my second one broke about a month ago, and I had not had a chance to replace it. Monday night — the night we can all put down on our calendars as the night I stopped feeling nothing and starting feeling a whole hell of a lot of something — I hysterically told Tim that maybe my mom was sicker because I needed to get a bracelet, that somehow my failure to obtain one sooner meant that my vigilance against the cancer had slipped and it must be all my fault. My husband, to his everlasting credit, held me and gently kissed me on the head and suggested I could pick one up on Tuesday. He didn’t try to argue me out of a point that I already knew to be foolish. He just indulged. He can be good that way.
  • Feelings are very inconvenient — like when they come when one is supposed to be running back and forth between children’s classroom Halloween parties. Sitting on the floor of the girls’ bathroom and sobbing doesn’t exactly fit well into that time frame. But.
  • Rob got punched in the nose yesterday by a second grade boy. It’s a long story, but three second grade boys basically attacked him when a chase game got out of hand. Why Rob? “Oh, because the other boys ran away and Rob stood his ground,” the school secretary informed me. Yeah, that’s my kid. The three culprits (none of whom is a “bad” kid — one of whom we actually played soccer with a couple of years ago) got in BIG ASS trouble and seemed genuinely repentant. They wrote Rob notes of apology, and last night Rob decided that he wanted to write them notes of forgiveness. Rob? A really, really good egg. But I needed the whole thing like I needed a big fat zit.
  • I took Dan to the Michigan State game a couple of weeks ago before all this crap began happening. It is rare to say — without it being hyperbole — that someone had the time of his life. But Dan did. What an awesome, fun time.
  • Abby is growing up so fast. And her sense of humor is actually starting to make me laugh more and more.
  • Jeff talked a couple of weeks ago about going through difficult times and feeling a sense of peace and strength and God’s presence — just an inner knowledge that we will be okay. Sometimes I feel like that. Other times I feel like a ripped kite flapping around looking stupid. Oh well.