Thursday, October 30, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I got more than just a small token.
We've been visiting a new church, and I can almost swear to you that the entire service was planned just for me. First of all, the sermon series is about Nehemiah. Seriously?! Who even reads that part of the Bible? Well, let me just say: the sermons have been engaging, dynamic and inspiring. I knew from last week that today's sermon was going to mention gossip, so I didn't expect it to apply much to my situation (the anniversary). But, oh man.
From the very first chord of the first song, I felt like God was talking to me. The song was "Everything Glorious" by The David Crowder Band. It's one of a few songs that has been on heavy rotation in my iPod these days. The lyrics say, "You [God] make everything glorious. So what does that make me?" It inspires me to feel glorious, no matter how achy or crappy I might feel on any given day. So that first song was uplifting, and I was happy that one of my favorite songs was being played.
But it didn't stop there. Oh no. The next song was "Everlasting God" by Brenton Brown. Y'all. God is good. He answered my prayer. Let me explain.
When my brother was first diagnosed with cancer, I visited him in North Carolina. Mom was visiting him too. One night he was in bed feeling like Hell from the chemo, and Mom went in to read the Bible to him. She asked me to come in too, and I laid on the bed while she read. Then she passed the Bible to me, and told me to read the passage they had been reading every night. It was Isaiah 40:28-31, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
This verse was read at church today, during the song "Everlasting God." The song is mostly that verse set to music. The lyrics say, "You are the everlasting God. You do not faint. You won't grow weary. You're the defender of the weak. You comfort those in need. You lift us up on wings like eagles." I felt like God (and my brother) was speaking directly to me through that song. And, yes, it was already another one of those five songs on heavy rotation in my iPod. (Maybe the band has been spying on me lately?)
Then the third song sealed the deal for me. It was "Never Let Go" by Matt Redman. The lyrics say, "You never let go, through the calm and through the storm. Oh, no, you never let go in every high and every low. Oh, no, you never let go. Lord, you never let go of me." God hasn't forgotten me. Not today, not ever. He's holding me, carrying me. Through the past month of my diagnosis, through the past six months of feeling crappy, through the hard times of raising children and dealing with the ups and downs of life. And today, a day of sorrow.
Then the sermon touched on gossip, but that was barely a mention. It was so much more than that. The pastor talked about grief and completing a task from God, despite pain and turmoil. Then he quoted Nehemiah 8:10: "This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Did you hear that? Read it again. I'll wait.
This day, October 26, hasn't been a day of much joy for me since 1996. But today, I was reminded that it is still sacred to God, as much as it's been sacred to me (and maybe even more so). It's hallowed and holy because it's the day my brother went home. Home. That is a joy, isn't it? Remember the end of the movie The Color Purple, when Celie runs to her sister through the golden field? Remember the joy of their reunion? I imagine God welcomed Jackson home with open arms, with a smile of joy. "The joy of the Lord is your strength." Right?
If you know me in daily life (not just from my blog), you know I'm not one to go about preaching the Gospel on a regular basis. But when a day like today happens, and God speaks to me in a concrete and tangible way, I'd be remiss not to tell the world about it. To quote from the movie again, "I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it." I think God wants me to notice the purple, and wants me to tell you about it.
An answered prayer. It's as simple as that.
P.S. All three of those songs I mentioned are in the playlist on the sidebar of my blog. Go listen to them and be inspired!
Twelve years ago today, the world changed forever. Maybe yours didn't, but mine did. My brother Jackson died. Not to be too dramatic, but so did the Old Elizabeth. That day marked a line in the sand. Everything prior to 10/26/96 was "before." Everything since has been "after." It's a day that has forever changed the way I view my world. You just have no idea. No idea! If you were lucky enough to know him, you do have an idea. If you didn't know him, consider yourself shortchanged.
I put together a video of his life to share with you. In doing so, my chest actually ached again at seeing his smile and invincibility. It stuns me how much he looks like my own son in certain photos. And then, at the same moment, my breath catches and I pray to God (beg) to never take one of my children from me. Twelve years have eased the ache a bit and dulled some of the memories. It's amazing how much I forgot, and how much it still shocks me that he's gone.
Twelve years. Years. Enough time for an entirely new lifetime - a New Elizabeth - to be conceived and birthed. And yet not enough time for me to stop missing him.
Friday, October 24, 2008
- Feeling better. That's the good news! I'm not back to 100% yet, but I am feeling much improved and I'm hoping this lupus flare up is on the downswing. My aches are less intense and less frequent, and I've even been able to cut back on my ibuprofen. I'm still trying to figure how much I can cut back, because a few times I've tried to do without and ended up paying for it.
- Yelling "Get DOWN!" lots as Jackson is climbing on top of the toy trunk and also from the couch onto the counter. But I've also been having a good two days with him. He's getting pretty darn cute, and is learning to smile as a way to (try to) get out of trouble. He was wearing these adorable overalls yesterday, and was irresistably cute. He's even started giving kisses. Mmmmm!
- Praying a lot about: my bloggy friends Gretchen, Janera and Hillary. Also praying for my neighbor who had a stroke. And praying for the future of my Parents Day Out program, plus some other prayer requests.
- Partying. We had a Halloween party with my mom's club on Tuesday. And I'm helping plan Katie's classroom party.
- Trying to stay warm. The cold weather is wreaking havoc on my fingers and toes already, causing the Raynaud's Syndrome to get more active. My left middle finger split open today. I wasn't expecting that to start happening for a little while longer. Ouch.
- Soaking in the love that my friends have lavished on me lately. Michelle went through bins of clothes specifically to find pants that might fit Katie. I got to have a good two-hour lunch with Lynna on Wednesday AND she is letting me put some stuff in her garage sale tomorrow, without making me be there to do the sale with her. Charity sent me a book in the mail. Susan called to tell me some good news. Sheryl watched Katie so I could make a quick run to the post office. Beth calls me almost every night just to touch base. And then so many of you have been visiting my blog, leaving me comments and compliments. When the world saps my energy, I find that my friends help to refuel. Thanks, y'all.
- Doing some fall cleaning. I cleaned out the kids' closets and changed the seasons, then cleaned my closet too. I moved all the pool bags and toys to the basement, and brought out the mittens and hats for winter. I even cleaned the refrigerator, microwave AND washed some curtains. What has gotten in to me? The good news is I won't have to do that again until next decade. Ha, ha.
- Trying to plan Christmas gifts. I am getting nervous about what we can afford, but it's making me get creative. I have lots of ideas that I'm hoping aren't too cheesy. These ideas are swimming through my head at odd times all day, kind of driving me crazy. That's the way my brain works. They'll keep driving me crazy until I just hunker down and make the darn presents.
- Typing Bylaws for my mom's group. At least I didn't have to make them up. I just had to type what was handed down to me but, unfortunately, wasn't in electronic form yet.
- Trying yoga. Dan suggested it as a way to help with my aches. He said he'd do it with me at night after the kids are in bed, but I thought I'd try it Wednesday morning when it was too cold for our morning walk. Jackson and I were in the playroom in the basement, and I will never make that mistake again. Yoga is not an activity I can do when Jackson is around. He thought I was a jungle gym and had great fun bouncing on my tummy while I tried to do pelvic lifts. Ugh. I'll go back to using my elliptical machine, which is much safer.
- Counting marbles. Beth gave me a great idea to start a marble jar for Katie. I've been getting frustrated with her backtalking, white lies, inability to listen and huffing at me. So I got marbles and a little jar. She is catching on to the idea, and the last 30 hours (since we started it) have been markedly better. So far, she's earned five marbles for good behavior and has only had one taken away. When the jar is full, she gets a new Color Wonder book and some paintbrushes. I'm glad it's becoming a win-win situation.
- Making another Katie Kay Tee. I made a new onesie last night. I was honored to make this for Hillary, who is a relative of my brother-in-law, Wally. The onesie turned out very cute, and I'm pleased with it. Go read the story about Anna Kathryn, the little girl who will wear it. And keep Hillary in your prayers today. She's weighing heavily on my mind because it's the "angel-versary" of her daughter's accident and death. Little Natalie was only 14 months old.
- Scanning photos. I spent about an hour of today's naptime scanning photos for something I'm putting together in memory of my brother. You'll have to check back on Sunday to see it. I've enjoyed reliving my memories, even as painful as they still are.
- Lacking sleep. Katie has had awful night terrors the last three nights. On Tuesday night I found her wandering upstairs holding a pair of my pants from the laundry hamper, crying and mumbling about a banana. The other two nights she's stayed in her bed, but wakes crying and screaming and isn't easily soothed. I have my in-laws to thank for this. Night terrors are hereditary. Dan has them occasionally too (although he doesn't cry and scream). His brother had them and his dad does weird sleep things too. Let's hope Katie is the end of the line and Jackson doesn't get them. He's been sleeping poorly this week too. There's no rest for the weary in our house!
Thanks for reading my ramblings. I hope everyone has a good weekend. We are going to be busy with my Weight Watchers weigh-in, a visit to the pumpkin patch, church and Trunk or Treat. I'll post again on Sunday.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I look at his friends, and see how they've aged. I wonder, yet again, how he would look now too. He should've been there. Dammit.
Katie decided to try the black ones next. They were either black licorice or skunk. She said they were skunk. Personally, I don't know how you could tell a difference. Katie tried a blue one and got toothpaste flavor instead of blueberry. Not too bad, I guess. We tried the white ones and I got coconut while Katie got the baby wipes flavor. Egads! The straw(s) that broke the proverbial camel's back were the ones that were either buttered popcorn or rotten egg. Yep... we got the eggs. Katie actually gagged on this one, so I figured it was time to stop. The remaining ones were too gross to even consider: vomit/peach, ear wax/mocha latte, or moldy cheese/caramel corn.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Fast forward to the end of 1993. My parents had split up in mid-1993, and it was a rough year emotionally for me. But Dan stuck by me throughout all the turmoil. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try to mess things up by breaking up with him or playing games with him (testing his love for me). I did lots of that silly stuff. Thank God that Dan was forgiving enough and willing to put up with all of it.
The start of 1994 was when our relationship deepened. I look back through our notebook and our photos, and it was a time of gooey romanticism, date parties, and studying together. That summer was spent apart while I interned at a TV station in Atlanta. The end of 1994 was Dan’s last semester in college, and he graduated right before Christmas. Christmas break was a roller coaster: my first niece was born, and I met Maureen (my future stepmother).
1995 was even crazier. Dan had moved two hours away to Kansas City for his first job, and I was still in school. I was incredibly lovesick for him, and missed him so deeply. I was juggling my last year of school and a job, and we spent every weekend traveling back and forth visiting each other. Our phone bills were pretty big, and the distance tested our relationship because we had to put a lot of work into communicating in new ways.
That May, my parents’ divorce was final. Dad got engaged to Maureen, and the wedding was planned for July 1. It was going to be a very small wedding, with only relatives invited. Dad said I wasn’t allowed to bring Dan with me unless we were engaged by their wedding day. So when it came time to make my airline reservations, I asked Dan if he was going with me. (How’s that for putting him on the spot? I already knew we were going to be getting engaged at some point, but not when.) He said that he would be going with me, so I knew an engagement was pending.
In May, I also “graduated” from college (that means I walked through the ceremony, but I still had summer school to finish before I was done). Dad and Dan saw me walk across the stage to accept my diploma, then had to hustle to catch Dad’s flight before the ceremony was over. On the way to the airport, Dan asked Dad for my hand in marriage. I knew Dan was planning to ask (I told him there’s no way I’d marry him if he didn’t ask Dad first), and was so excited when he returned from the airport that night and told me he had asked – and that Dad had given his blessing. Then I sat back (or tried to) and waited (or tried to).
I knew Dan was going to propose during one of our weekend visits. And since there weren’t very many weekends left before July 1, I spent every weekend waiting for some romantic proposal to catch me off guard.
Find out what happens (C’mon, as if you don’t already know!) in Part IX of Our Story.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
What would he look like? Would his hair be graying at the temples? Would he even have any hair left? How many wrinkles would he have? How many kids? (The two are directly proportional.) What job would he have now? Where would he live? What sort of music would he like?
I've got an idea. I'm going to do a little creative writing and invent the details of what my brother's life would have been like for the last 12 years. Indulge me, okay y'all? I imagine he would have beaten his cancer, and maybe stayed in the Army a few more years. I know he wanted to go back and teach at West Point, so let's pretend he did that for about four years. Then he and Bonnie would have been ready to have kids, and she would have wanted to move back to Kentucky where her family lives. So I'm gonna say he got out the military altogether and became a civilian. They had two kids, both adopted because of the cancer treatments: a boy named either Josh or Gabe and a girl named Elizabeth. (I hope y'all are still indulging me!) The kids would be six and three now. Jackson would have very little hair on his head, but what he has left would still be pretty dark. (The grays won't show up until he's in his mid-forties.) We'd talk on the phone about once every ten days or so. He'd be the owner of a small civil engineering firm, and he'd still like country music like Kenny Chesney, mixed in with some classic rock. I bet he'd like Kidd Rock, and I'd be able to harrass him about that. (I don't like Kidd Rock!) Jackson and Bonnie would live in a house out in the country, kind of like where she lives now. There would be enough room for my family and my sister's family to stay with them every other Christmas, which we would alternately dread and anticipate every time - dread because of the chaos of all the kids, and anticipate because of the time we'd get to spend together now that Mom and Dad are gone and us three siblings would be the only ones left. We'd spend holidays eating Dad's wild rice and Mom's sweet potato casserole and Bonnie's family dishes, and tell stories about how I killed Jackson's mice (accidentally) and how Jackson pushed me out of the treehouse and how Mary made the worst spaghetti when Mom and Dad were out of town. We'd commiserate about raising kids and toddler tantrums.
Ah... that was fun to dream and pretend. Sad, but fun. I hope he's having a good birthday, enjoying himself and his perpetually-young 26-year-old body. I miss him.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
But Joe ended his email with something that truly inspired me. I had to share it with you. These are his words:
"What a beautiful life we all are given! Sure, it's got some hurdles every now and then, but in the end, all rain does is make the flowers grow higher and prettier. I hope I get to share some of your flowers with you, and maybe spend some time playing in the puddles with you while it's pouring."
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Today was also a lot of fun. A local skating rink opened up for our mom's group, and the kids got to ride their scooters and bikes all over the rink. Some of the kids used their roller skates for a bit, but riding a bike or scooter indoors was too exciting and they spent most of their time doing that. The parents chased after the little ones and also danced to some of the songs on the sound system, like C'mon and Ride It (The Train), the Cha Cha Slide, the Macarena, and Hakuna Matata. We had lunch back at Beth and Sean's house, and the kids went wild playing with all the toys in the basement. Even better? It's a rainy day outside, and we are enjoying every minute of it with fun things like the skating rink and playing at a friend's house.
This week, I like my job. Think I can ask for a raise?
Sunday, October 5, 2008
During a song at church last night, one of the lyrics was "You are healing me." I needed to hear that! God is taking care of me, loving me, lifting me up on eagle's wings, and speaking to me through the people He's placed in my life.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
- First, let me start with gratitude. Thank you to those of you who have called me, met me for coffee, donated to my Lupus Walk team, posted comments, prayed for me, watched my kids, and just let me crumble the past few days. I am loved, and you have shown me that the last three days. Thank you.
- How am I feeling? Stunned. Shocked. Pissed. Achy. Overwhelmed. Alone. In turmoil. In denial. On edge. Lost. Scared. In a fog. Thankful. Inspired. Irritable. Weak. Empty. Unsure. Ugh. I'm tired of talking about it, and then I'm frustrated that I'm not talking about it. I'm contradictory right now, not making much sense. I'm worried. What if I pass it on to my kids, like my parents passed it to me? What if I brought this on myself with negative thinking? I keep telling myself to stop being a baby. I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. At least I'm not waiting for the other shoe to drop anymore. (A little gallows humor there.)
- I still have lots to learn about Lupus. One of the best resources I've found is the "About Lupus" section of the Lupus Foundation website. I know y'all have lots of questions about it too, so go read it. (That way I won't have to explain it over and over... when it's something I barely understand myself!) I'm also looking forward to the Lupus Walk on Sunday, and getting to meet others with Lupus. I'm hoping to get some direction and help. I feel like an idiot about the whole thing, like I don't know anything. There's so much to learn, and so many questions for my doctor. (Am I even seeing the right doctor anyway?)
- I'm praying. Lots. Asking God to help me feel Him. Asking Him to just hold me. Just hold me. I know He's bigger than this. I'm begging my parents to show themselves to me in some way, and help me feel their presence. You have no idea how many times I've wanted to call them the last three days. I did get to talk to my stepmother, and she helped me answer some questions, which was good. And she was pissed off for me, which was even better. (I've not heard her cuss like that in a LONG time.) But... if I could just hear Mom or Dad's voices. Oh. Let's move on from this topic, before I dissolve again.
- It could be worse. Yes, I keep saying that to myself. Especially when I heard the news on Monday (the same day of my diagnosis) that a friend/neighbor had a stroke last week. He's my age! Lupus is not so bad when I think of the other diagnoses out there. But, ugh. Is it wrong of me to not want anything? I talked to a woman at the Lupus Foundation about the walk on Sunday, and mentioned that I was just diagnosed. She said, "Oh, isn't it a relief? To know what's been going on and have a diagnosis finally?" Sort of, in a way, I guess it's a relief... but not like she meant. It's a relief to have a plan and medicine I can take, but it's also devastating because I saw my parents fight Lupus. I KNOW what it does. I think I'd rather be blissfully ignorant.
- And here's the contradictory part of me again: I'm lucky that my parents had Lupus. My diagnosis came much quicker than it does for other people. I've heard of people (like Mom) who spent years feeling like this before they finally got a diagnosis. I've only spent four months feeling like this. Lucky, lucky, lucky. Now if this darn medicine would just kick in and start working!
I think I'll stop there. I could keep going about all my worries and fears, but I'm going to get up from the computer, take my ibuprofen, and go focus on something else. Besides, Jackson is crying in his crib and I can't focus anymore anyway.