Thursday, November 14, 2013


And from 2008...


      Well, it’s that time again and I’ve been avoiding it like the plague. We’ve just so enjoyed the past 6 months that I figured the longer I could put it off the longer we could pretend she was well. We ran out of refills on her meds well over 3 months ago. My pharmacist, Jihad, who despite the connotations of his name is one of the warmest and most peaceful men you will ever meet and has become a very dear friend to me since May was diagnosed last year. He has faithfully called the doctor to request new refills each of these last few months, however, I knew it was coming…refill approved, but follow up appointment is required.

       I could tell something was up with her, I’d noticed it for a few weeks now. She seemed happy enough, but just a little sluggish. I stared at her as she moved through the house. With her stuff, it’s so hard to say…really only a mother can tell, like when a mother knows her infants cry means hungry instead of sleepy or tummy ache instead of a wet diaper. But so much of that was lost in this whole thing, that natural knowing of what she needs. The hows and whens and whats of my motherhood were stolen through this process. I had once so fervently believed in my abilities to nurture her and now I don’t even know what to feed her.

       So I made the phone call, “Yes, Wednesday of next week is fine,” and dug out the lab orders the doctor had given me at our last appointment. “Have her blood work done in about six months, okay?” Six months seemed irrelevant at the time, I was so giddy and starry-eyed by the news she had just given me… “Her labs are perfect, in fact it seems her liver has completely regenerated itself, her body is responding miraculously to the medications.”  

        But now my six months were up.

        “Girls, hop in the car, we’ve got to run some errands.” They grumbled as they always do when I drag them to Vons and Wal-Mart. 

        “We’re not going to the store, girls.” May hopped in the front seat and glanced down at the all too familiar carbon lap slip resting on the dashboard. She dropped her head as her eyes welled up.

        I’d tricked her, my little lamb to the slaughter.

        “Come on baby, you’ve done this a million times, it’s no big deal, you’re an old pro at this now.”

        She stared out the window.

        I patted her leg, “It’ll be fast sweetie, in and out, I’m sure Jason will be there. You love Jason.”

         “Mom, I don’t want to talk about it.”

         We rode in silence the next few blocks to the lab, Summer plugged out with her ipod and Jazi doodled pictures in the backseat.

          Behind the counter was an overweight Asian woman with an apparent inability to smile. “Is Jason here?” I asked her.

          “No, Jason hasn’t worked here in two years.”

          Why I began arguing with her I still don’t know. “That’s impossible” I told her. “He was here the last time we drew her blood, he always draws her blood.”

            “Not in the last two years.” She said leaning over the counter on the palms of her hands.

            “It hasn’t been two years, we were here just six months ago, and you weren’t here and before that Jason was here every week.”

           “Well, not anytime in the last two years,” she said shaking her head and rolling her eyes.

            May tugged on my sleeve, “Mom, Jason wasn’t here the last time.”  

             I took a deep, anxious breath and turned back to the woman. “Well then just give me the best person back there, the most gentle you’ve got….” And then I added snippily, under my breath, “but it hasn’t been two years!”

             She scribbled something down on a yellow post it and stuck it to May’s chart. Then she told us to take a seat, that they’d call us back when it was our turn.

            A few minutes later some new guy opened the door and called her name. “Muh-hall-uh”.

             “It’s Mahala,” I told him as May and I followed him through the door.

             You could tell right away he was green. It may have even been his first day. I sat down in the seat and May climbed up into my lap and plopped her left arm palm side up on the table. “I think this vein is better today,” she said, “but I feel kinda dehydrated so it might be hard to find.”

              He was fidgety, skittish even. He pressed his pointer finger in the crease of her arm and then asked to see her other arm.

              I let out a deep sigh. I could tell May was starting to fret. I can always tell because she gets kinda spacey and whimpers a little.

              “Um…I... think it might be better if she sat in the chair by herself, she’s a little too high up being in your lap,” he stuttered as he spoke.

              But she always sits in my lap when she has her blood drawn, since the first time, when she was only eight. I hold her tightly in my arms and pray through the whole thing. Jason knows this; it’s never a problem for Jason.

               “Actually…Mom, maybe you should just go,” May said as she looked up at me with those deep green eyes…those eyes… they would make even the hardest of hearts melt into a puddle on the floor.  

               “Would that help, sweetie?”

               “Yeah, Mom, I’ll be alright.”

                “Okay, what ever you need, Love.” It all happened so fast. Before I knew it, I was back in the waiting room, standing like a guard, just outside the door.

                “Mom, where’s May?” Summer asked.

                 “She’s still in there, baby.”

                 “Mom is she okay?”

                 “Yes, honey, she’s fine.”

                 “Mom are you okay?”

                 “Uh, huh…yeah honey…”

                  I stood there on the outside. Time stopped. My heart raced, my throat closed.  I listened to her soft whimpers through the closed door.

                   “Mommy, mommy…come sit down. Jazi tugged at my hand and led me to my seat. I sat down and Jazi wiggled up into my lap and brushed her tiny hand across my cheek. “Oh…its okay Mommy, “she said, “May’s gonna be okay.”

                   “Mom, you’ve gotta hear this song.” I heard Summer say it but I just stared at the closed door. “Mom, here listen to this…”

                    She tried to hand me her earphones but I waved them away. “Not right now sweetie, I’ll hear it later.”

        “No Mom, listen now…it will make you feel better.”    

          I looked down at my other two girls, the healthy ones, the ones who seem to get the least of me…and I missed them terribly. I wrapped my arms around them and squeezed them close to my chest. “Okay Sweetie, give me the earphones.”

          The music filled my head and my heart swelled.


“I can change the world…with my own two hands

make it a better place, with my own two hands

make it a kinder place, with my own two hands

With my own, with my own… two hands

I can make peace on earth, with my own two hands

I can clean up the earth, with my own two hands

I can reach out to you, with my own two hands

With my own, with my own… two hands

With my own, with my own… two hands

I’m gonna make it a brighter place, with my own two hands

I’m gonna make it a safer place, with my own two hands

I’m gonna help the human race, with my own two hands

With my own… with my own… two hands

 With my own… with my own… two hands

I can hold you, in my own two hands

 And I can comfort you, with my own two hands

But you got to use… use your own, two hands, use your own, use your own…two hands

With our own two hands… with our own… two hands…with our own two hands

With my own…with my own…two hands”


           Tears ran down my face as I held my babies and swayed to the music and I realized that behind that door, and in my lap, were not only two, but six little hands. Six hands with the ability to change the world, make it a better place, a kinder place, a brighter place, a more peaceful place; that they would be hands that would reach out and hold and bring comfort that would help the human race. I also realized that more and more, as they were able, I would be on the outside of it all. That their path, their story, with all their own sufferings, all their own joys, was between them and their maker, hardly any of my business at all. And I understood what she was doing in there; she needed me out of the way, so she could draw close to Him. Through all of this horror…she found Him…I know this. I may have lost my ability to know what to feed her, but she gained the understanding that He knows, and that He has, what she is hungry for.

          When she finally came out of the room, both her arms were bandaged and bruised. I rushed to her side.

           “Did he get it, are you alright?”

            “Yeah, Mom…I’m fine, can we go now?”

            As we walked towards the elevator I put my arm around May’s shoulders and Summer and Jaz huddled in close. “Well, that guy was totally out of it, huh? I mean he must have been new.”

             And her reply was so typical May. “Yeah, I felt so terrible for him. He was so nervous, he couldn’t find my vein, he even had to get his boss to help him…and I think you made him extra nervous, Mom” she said with a chuckle.

              She was so okay…she was more than okay. She was extraordinary. And I’d bet good money that she changed that new guy’s day, with her kindness…and with her own two hands.

            When May was 3 days old I lifted her to the heavens, high above my head, I raised her tiny body and with trembling hands sang,


“Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace.

Streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.

O to grace how deep a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be.

Let thy goodness, like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.”


       Here’s my heart, Lord, seal her for your courts above. He had given her to me and I knew I had to give her back. That she was only on loan; that each day that I nursed her, bathed her, rocked her to sleep was borrowed time. I’ve known it all along. I knew the first time I held her, the first time I held each of my babies, that all that magic swaddled up in my arms was so much bigger than me. I knew that there were many things I’d be instinctually good at and I trusted the women around me to help me muddle through the rest. I knew Jon would shine. But I also knew that there were some things we were never meant to do and that her deepest longings could be met by Christ alone. But that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier, the three year old in me still wants to grab her tight and scream, “Mine!” But that’s not what is best for her, and a good mama does what is best for her baby.      

        So when Wednesday morning came around I knew what I had to do. I hunkered myself down on the landing of our stairwell, where the morning sun streams through the window, and I raised my hands to the heavens and gave her up…again. I let her go, again. I gave her to the One who had given her to me, the One who created her, adores her and knows… and has…every thing she needs.

         I had no idea what the day would bring. I had prepared for the labs to show the worst, played out all the scenarios. I had allowed my mind to go there…and see if I would still say God was good, all the time. Oh, how I hoped I would, how I hoped I would have the courage to be faithful.

        Well, I guess for now, I won’t know the answer to that…because by His great mercy and grace…she is still well. Her sluggishness attributed to normal adolescent growth, three quarters of an inch taller, actually. The doctor says she’ll probably be taller than me soon. Her liver is still perfect, her thyroid is perfect and the medications are daily stabilizing her blood sugar. He’s on the case, He hears my cries. Not a night goes by where we don’t still lay our hands on that sweet baby and pray for each cell, each part of her. And we know there is no guarantee that her health will always be well…however through all of this I hear her singing, I lean my head on the hallway, just outside her room and I can hear her. I think she knows I’m there; maybe it’s her way of telling me she’s okay…and she sings,


Well, I could sing unending songs

Of how you saved my soul

And I could dance a thousand miles

Because of your great love

My heart is bursting Lord

To tell of all you’ve done

Of how you’ve changed my life

And wiped away the past

I want to shout it out

From every rooftop sing

For Now I know

That God is for me, not against me

Well, I could sing unending songs

Of how you saved my soul

And I could dance a thousand miles

Because of your great love

I want to shout it out

From every rooftop sing

For now I know

That God is for me, not against me

Everybody’s singing now,

Cause we’re so happy

Everybody’s dancing now

Cause we’re so happy

If only I could see your face,

See you smiling over us

Unseen angels celebrate

The joy that’s in this place!

The Joy that’s in this place!



Motherhood is Kind of a Rip Off

I just found this little rant in the rubble of my email, written in 2007. May was only 11, Summer was 10 and Jaz was just a wee 7. A sad bit of prophesy...

 Motherhood is kind of a rip-off. It all starts as passion ignites a tiny wildfire within, you rub your hands across the surface of your swelling belly and drift you go, ever so lightly, and ignorantly, into the distance… Will she have my eyes? Will she have his smile? Will she be healthy, will she be strong? Will I be good at this? After all I did forget to change Baby Alive’s fake poopy diaper and that mushy stuff did mildew and stick to her plastic bottom. But I was only six, now I’m a grown up, surely I’ll now know what to do.

 So you make it through your first pregnancy and it’s all about you and baby. People say you glow; they talk about your baby. You now tear up when you see pictures of the Madonna and Jesus. You recognize a deep, quiet place that you never knew about yourself that turns everything you once believed upside down and now your rose-colored glasses…well, now they are baby-colored glasses. How will the price of eggs affect my baby? How will this culture affect my baby, how will this air affect my baby, how will this war affect my baby? Even before the child’s birth, born in you is Mommy. Stairs become death traps, boiling water… a trip to the emergency room, a fast car… an asshole trying to run your baby off the road.

 And so begins the barrage of timeless questions and the pressure of answering correctly. How long shall I nurse her?  How do I comfort her? What do I do when she is sick? When she is an infant, the sleepless nights will leave you scattered and unkempt, your mistakes will be many and you will shutter at every near miss of potential disaster. Each time she falls, you will brush her off, soothe her cries, cradle her in your breast. You will be responsible for the healing and the fixing and the cleaning and the finding and the everything… You will never sleep again, not really, not in the way you had when you were the child and your mother lay awake in the next room wondering, worrying and praying. You will never really eat the same either, not without making sure she has been fed first, that her tummy is full and doesn’t hurt and that you picked out all the stinky little green onions from her plate of casserole.

You’ll throw fits in doctor’s offices when she has a fever, you’ll demand an answer, search to the edges of the earth to find solutions to her challenges, remedies to what ails her. Mommy is unstoppable; you can swim in her love.     

She will grow and much of you will stay the same. Day in and day out, with each ticking moment, you will feed her and wash her and discipline her and make sure she brings a sweatshirt each time she leaves the house. (When she is thirteen she will roll her eyes at you, but one thing you have learned in your old age is that you never can tell when the weather will change.) And if you are a good mom, you will pray for her, you will ask her forgiveness when you blow it and you will tell her you love her each and every day.  You’ll learn these things from all the parenting books you’ll pick up at Borders with your husband on date night. And at dinner you’ll talk about what she’s going through at school and you’ll pray she loves Jesus enough to rifle through all that peer pressure. Then, because after all it is date night, a time to celebrate what started the tiny wildfire to begin with; you’ll stroll, hand in hand, off to see the newest movie about family life and parenthood…just the two of you… Mommy and Daddy.  

And all of it is worth it because she is your baby. When Mommy was born in you, death to yourself became second nature. Guilt became your new best friend and depriving yourself for your child, an often joyous, and always righteous, sacrament. Love and devotion to your baby is a calling bigger than you, in instinct of miraculous measures. This is what the Hallmark cards are made of, tributes to the mothers who sacrificed and poured out and never gave up, whose love taught, protected, encouraged and moved mountains.         

Sure, you’ll nurture here and there the things that still make you, “you”. You’ll paint or write or take a class once in a while. You’ll laugh at the moms who have soccer-mom bumper stickers…as if your baby’s goal last season wasn’t the highlight of your life.

But all in all,  you know that nothing, nothing at all, no measure of success or fame, no praise of friend or colleague can come close to that sleep-in-the eye yawn and her stuffy-nosed, “Mommy, I love you.” And as for her, “Mommy, I need you,” well… the whole world will have to stop for that. My baby needs me; now get out of my way.

However, here’s the catch…she will leave. And you are virtually dismissed, stripped of your duties. Oh, it doesn’t happen overnight if that brings any consolation, it’s a slow and agonizing process, like the daily peeling of a bandage, piece by piece,  one day she’s using a fork, one day she’s tying her own shoes and one day she’ll be driving a car…“No,” she’ll say, “I can do it myself.” And you should be so proud. You’ll have raised her so well, she can do it herself. That’s the catch. You do a good job and they can do it themselves. And then she’ll get in that car… and she’ll drive away.

And so you have to let go.  Hmm…I’m laughing out loud. It’s the game of tag you were never meant to win. From the moment they leave your womb, you chase them and they are never really caught… never in that place again; that deep, quiet place where their very shape was formed. That place from which their heart first began to beat and every hiccup, every sneeze, every kick… was known to you, from your inside. That tiny ignition of wildfire now spreads out and beyond you. And it begs the question, was she ever really mine? Was she ever really my baby?

And the truth is she’s not even really a baby anymore. She’s trapped somewhere between my baby and her own lovely young womanhood; a place undefined and reckless and full of potentially immeasurable disaster but also of great wonder and creativity and innocence. And so again begins the barrage of timeless questions and the pressure to answer correctly. How do I let go? Where do I let go? When do I let go? What things do I keep a tight hold on and for how long? Will she remember her sweatshirt? Will she where her seatbelt? Will she be okay when she is sick? And will she love Jesus enough?