Saturday, August 27, 2016

My sister has cancer

Apparently, my sister has incredibly lumpy breasts.

It's not something we've talked about much over the years. She is six years my younger. She was 12 when I went to college, 16 when I got married, in college when I became a mom. My 6th kid was 6 months old when she had her first nicu baby (3 of her 4 daughters spent significant time in the hospital). I remember sitting behind a curtain in the hospital with her, pumping together, she - so her tiny girl could have mama milk in spite of her cleft lip and palate, so important as she recovered from major surgery on her miniature heart; me - so my normal, healthy, fat chunk boy could still have my milk when I flew home.

Even then, I'm pretty sure we didn't discuss her fibrous boobs.

But here we are, a dozen years later, and one pesky lump out of her extensive lump collection is turning our worlds upside down.

For me it has been a week or so of being pretty sure it was cancer but not completely sure, and now we are sure that it is but don't know much else. How big? How many? How fast? How aggressive? Spreading? Lymph nodes? What does it mean? Surgery yes, but how much? Genetic? Hormonal? Will she lose her boobs? Will I lose my sister?

These are the questions that have been hogging most of my conscious thought. Answers will come as tests are completed and results are read. Today I will tell my middle kids. I will tell them not to be afraid. There may be a time for weeping. And I will weep now for her grief, for the agony of the process, for the surgery, the chemo, the suspense, the loss of the illusion that all is well (true story, she lost that illusion long ago).

But I am not going to grieve things I fear. I'm not going to borrow tomorrow's trouble. Today has trouble of its own.

That's all my brain talking. At the same time, my heart has an ache that doesn't go away. Suspense isn't something I handle well. There is a big something I don't know. And that is its own kind of hard.

So if you pray, please pray. And if you know me and I behave strangely, forget things, start blubbing in a conversation about laundry detergent, text furiously during a class about improving your students' essay writing, please forgive me, handle with care. Know that some portion of my already distracted heart is very, very busy, loving my sister.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The value of life

There has been much discussion of late about which lives matter, black lives, blue lives, unborn lives... This is not that conversation. (Although this truth very much applies to it.)
There is a fallacy in the way we esteem the value of a life. For example, to a couple who has struggled to conceive, the thousands of dollars it costs to adopt or to conceive with medical help are absolutely worth every penny. For those who conceive with little effort, or even in spite of efforts NOT to conceive, there is such a thing as a "pregnancy scare". One couple will spend all they have and more to get what another couple dreads and fears. 
I haven't watched the movie, but my understanding of the plot of Saving Private Ryan, which involves a group of men risking/giving their lives to save the last of a mother's sons, is somewhat true to life. The last son's life was made more valuable because the other sons had died. 
A woman may abort her baby at different stages of pregnancy in different parts of the world. Yet, if the same parent would sustain the pregnancy, give birth to the baby, raise it for a year or three, and in a relatively brief moment of failure leave it in a hot or cold car, or allow it to get away from her, she or he would be crucified on social media for it. We fiercely defend the right to deliberately end the life of an unwanted (preborn) child but cruelly withhold grace from the woman/man who desperately wanted to keep her/his (slightly older) child but failed to do so.  
Why such a disparity? Is it just supply and demand? Does it lie in our ability to empathize? 
We are mistaken. The life of a human (or other creature I suppose) is not truly valued by what it is worth to its parents or peers or medical staff or the friendly neighborhood Facebook troll. 
In my house there are many creative people. They create a lot. The person who gets to say if a creation is 'important' or not, where it goes, how long it stays in our house, is the one who made it. 
I am 45 years old. My oldest is 20, my youngest is just learning to sit on her own. There are 13 more between them. I happen to think they are all exquisite. 
I am asked fairly often if my littlest is the last. The truth is, I don't know. People do get pregnant as old as I am sometimes. 
Do I want to be pregnant again? Not necessarily.  Do I want to labor again? Not especially. Do I hope to breastfeed and hold a tiny baby again? Yeah, I suppose. I love all of those things. And, I can take or leave all those things. I have done my share of being excited, taken more than my share of pregnancy tests, experienced the anticipating, swelling feet and abdomen, laboring, delivering, nursing. God knows I've changed my share of diapers. 
It isn't the experience of having a baby that makes me want to have more babies. It is the life. If God chooses not to give me any more humans, or gives them but then takes them away, I will trust Him. He is good. But if He were to trust me with more lives, I will always call that good. Because he put the price tag of 'worth-the-life-of-my-only-son' on each one, and also 'bearer-of-the-image-of-God', and because he calls them very good and a blessing and a heritage and a reward, I will continue to agree with the Creator's assessment of His creation. 
Am I done having children? I don't know. Maybe. But I am not done saying yes. I am pleased to say yes. 
There is more risk for an older mom, they say. More risk than a mom who goes through years of in vitro fertilization? More risk than a mom with previous miscarriages? More risk than a mom with an incompetent cervix? No. Just more risk than someone else thinks is worth it. But I think each baby, each human, each life is worth all the risk in the world and all the money in the world and all the stars in the heaven. 
They are valuable, precious in His sight, no matter what anyone else ever says or thinks. No matter what they achieve. If everyone knows their name. If no one knows their name. Each of my sons and daughters. Each of your sons and daughters. You. Me. We are the Joy set before Him that caused Jesus to endure the cross. Before we were formed in the womb, we were known and loved by Him. That is the value of life. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Giving birth to grownups

As it turns out, the Middles and Littles take energy, but it's the Bigs that use up my brain. With the Hormones on a missions trip, my brain has more free time than it knows what to do with. I've been on Facebook more today than I have in a month. Normally I click on links and save them up in my browser to read or give up on later. Today I read them all.

Not that I didn't care for the humans. We watered flowers, ate and cleaned up, changed diapers, took naps, got the mail, played outside, pushed each other around in a big cardboard box. It's been a good day. But small people simply do not have the crises that the Hormones do. I don't know what to do with myself. I only have a dozen kids here, ages 12 & under.

I've decided that giving birth at adults is way harder, takes way longer, and hurts way more than giving birth to babies. And for the first time ever, my husband and I wonder why we had so many kids. What were we thinking? Can we do this?

Testing. College. Decisions. Learning to really go to God when the humans in your life fall so far short. Having hard conversations about what is happening in the real world.

For example, I had to have a conversation with my kids about the Duggar situation. It went like this: being in that family, arguably the most perfectly sheltered environment in the world, did not keep sin away from Josh Duggar. Because sin doesn't just get us from the outside. It's in us. Our littlest guy eating Cheerios in the high chair is a sinner. There are no innocent people.

Second, being in our family isn't enough. You have to know Jesus and have a relationship with Him yourself and maintain it and work on it on your own. Do not take it for granted that being in this family means you are a Christian. It is up to you.

But this week is easy. This week I just have to make 4 yr olds apologize to each other and make 10 yr olds put their dishes in the sink and decide if riding down the stairs on a piece of cardboard is a good idea. Piece of cake.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Zaccheus and me

I just got home from a Hearts At Home conference. It was my third. I think the first time I went I was maybe pregnant with my 9th, the second time I had 10, but that was the year Michelle Dugger spoke, so there was a larger turnout from the big family demographic. Here's why that matters.

Each year they have a little tradition of telling the statistics of who is there at the conference, how old we are, what states are represented, and how many kids we have. They start by saying something like "91 of you have no children...250 of you have 1 child ... X of you have 2, and so on. And I sit there in my little seat, listening to people make noises as the number of children goes up.

This time I was really covert because my sisters and I were spread out, we had come in late, flapping our yaps, no doubt. I was tucked in the front corner of the auditorium. And the lady said, "3 of you have 10 children (applause) and ONE woman here has FOURTEEN children!" Loud cheering. For me. One of 5000+ women. But no one knew it was me. Had I stood up and jumped up and down, I still wouldn't have been seen or heard. I was a short person in a dark corner of a crowded room. Kind of like Zaccheus, maybe.

And I was a little disappointed. Why? It was my moment to feel special. My moment to be special. But I felt like an idiot. What was the matter with me?

It bothered me off and on for hours. I finally talked to the Lord about it. A couple times. I repented for my pride, my desire for glory (which is rightfully His), my hunger for attention and the praise of men. Still kicking myself.

This is what He told me:

You are not special because you have 14 kids. You are special because you are mine. Your children don't define you. They are blessings to you, but your worth would be the same if you had no children at all.

I am hidden in Him. I belong to Him. What He does with me is His business, not mine. If he keeps me tucked under His wing or takes me out for a spin around town, I'm good. As for me, the nearness of my God is my good.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sex talk

Why am I writing about sex?

Well, there's this book out there that I haven't read that's becoming a movie I won't see that everybody is talking and writing and boycotting about. I likely would never have even heard of 50 Shades of Gray but for the dozens of posts on social media about why I shouldn't read the book or see the movie.

I'm not actually writing about the book/movie, because I won't see or read it. I'm writing about sex, good sex, healthy, married sex, because there are some things I think need to be said about it that aren't usually said, maybe never. But someone needs to, and I guess it might as well be me.

Kids, if you're not old enough to take me out and buy me a beer, you should probably have your mom read this first, ok?!

One of the several articles I read about NOT seeing the aforementioned movie cited some survey that showed religious married women about my age are the most satisfied with their sex lives, so I'm writing, maybe not as an expert, but as a satisfied middle aged married woman. ;) With a lot of children.

So here are some words that aren't usually used to describe good sex that ought to be.

1. CLEAN. Good sex is clean. Now, it isn't clean in the sense of cleanliness. It's a mess. I have often thought, while spending intimate time with my husband, 'I can't believe people do this in cars'.

But it is clean in the way it is expressed and the way it makes you feel. Sex isn't dirty or nasty or trashy. It's clean. It's pure. And, just like the comedians who are able to do their act without lude words or subject matter and still be really funny (see also, Brian Reegan and Jim Gaffigan), the idea that you have to be (or pretend to be) bad for sex to be good is a lie.

2. HEALING. Sex heals. It helps us remember that we are one. That Bible verse that says love covers a multitude of sins, it's true. I'm not saying we don't still have to work things through or deal with problems. We do. Sex just helps put them into perspective. It is going to be ok.

3. RESTORING. It's like hitting the reset button on the computer. And it isn't necessarily always something you do because you're in the mood for it. It is something you do because it is wonderful.

I love to swim. I always love to swim. I am always glad I got in the pool, I never regret making the effort, once I am there. But, I do not always want to swim. I do not always feel like getting in the pool. Sometimes I don't want to swim until I am swimming. Sometimes I get in the pool because I know that I will like it and it is good for me, and then, after I'm in, then I'm always glad I did.

4. SAFE. I don't mean what is normally called safe sex. Sex is not safe because someone has some kind of pregnancy prevention system going on or something in place to try to stop the transmission of diseases. Sex is safe because it is ours alone to share. It is sacred. It is a promise and a renewal of that promise that there is no one else. It says I belong to you and I trust you completely and I am not holding anything back from you. It is a gift freely given. I feel safe when we have sex. (I also often muse, 'I cannot believe people do this with people they aren't married to, or worse, people they hardly know')

5. PRODUCTIVE. I won't belabor this here, but the natural intended state of sex was that making babies goes with intimacy. As a culture we separate it and try to control that part of it as best we can, but, like it or not, God put those two really wonderful things together. He thought it was a great idea. He didn't have to do it that way, but He did.

Sex is an amazing part of God's creation. Unique to humans (compared to all other creatures) in that He designed it for us, both husband and wife, to enjoy. It is such an amazing biological event. He chose to make procreating for humans a delightful, exciting, therapeutic, connective, spiritual experience.

6. WORSHIPFUL. It is true. I often just am in awe of God when I get to enjoy my husband. I thank Him (though not usually out loud, but why not?) for this gift He has given me, this man, this marriage, this sweet way we get to love each other. It started with God. Why not praise Him for it?

Monday, December 22, 2014

What Christmas Means to Me

I am a horrible, obnoxious, vicious critic of Christmas songs. I deliver up a full helping of snarky comments all day long, all season long. There are the stupid meaningless songs, the dysfunctional relationship/recent break up/stalker songs, the "winter" songs, the bad theology religious songs (Do you hear what I hear?), the Beach Boys attempt at comparing Santa's sleigh to a hot rod, my kids' favorite which they call '6-pack at a liquor store', and it just goes on and on. I've written blogs about particular songs and lists of songs. This is not one of those posts. It's just inspired by one of those Christmas songs, but I'm not going to critique it. Just quote it.

Fires burning low, lots of mistletoe
Lots of snow and ice everywhere we go
Choirs singing carols right outside my door
All these things and more, that's what Christmas means to me my Lord

Here is what Christmas means to me, why I love to celebrate it.

A long time ago, God made a man and a woman. He gave them only one rule. Eat from any tree but this one. They disobeyed, and everything began to die. But even as God told them to leave and described some of the consequences of their actions, He said, I'm gonna fix this.

Thousands of years of sin, judgement, repentance and forgiveness later, in a moment of unfathomable and extraordinary grace and mercy, God placed the glory and majesty and splendor of Himself in the humble womb of a nondescript unmarried young woman. The glory of Mary is that she said yes. The glory of God is that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. He showed us the Father. He became acquainted with grief. He learned obedience through suffering. He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, and in the same earthly breath, was Himself the propitiation for our sin.

Unbelievable, and yet gloriously believable.

All in a moment, in a gestational moment. All of creation, pregnant with desire and expectation, waiting for that one pregnancy and delivery of the Deliverer. Is it not magnificent? Is it not extraordinary? I am not diminishing the Cross or the Resurrection. But the culmination of everything before was that moment. The Word become Flesh. We beheld His Glory. The Glory of the Only One begotten of the Father. Full of grace. Full of truth. At the same time. Not in competition, not torn, not confused. Grace and truth. Mercy and justice, simultaneously born to us here together. Stunningly, exquisitely, universe shatteringly beautiful.

You can see where "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" sorta falls just a tad short, right?

Friday, December 19, 2014

What I tell my kids about Santa

When I think about writing a book, which I do sometimes, I think I will have a chapter, or a part of each chapter, or a whole book called "Conversations with my children," which would be all the things I say to my kids about sex or friendships or racism or when someone is unkind to you or Santa Claus. So here is that one:

Santa is real. He is a real person who lived a very long time ago. He loved Jesus and is in heaven with Jesus right now. When he was alive on earth, one way he showed how much he loved Jesus was by helping people and giving to people who were poor and needy. He was so great at it, people said he was a saint, a person who is holy like Jesus. That's why he's called Santa Claus. Saint-ni Claus or Saint Nicholas.

He was such a great guy, people still talk about him, dress up like him, make up stories about him. But he was real. And if he was here today, he would probably say that all the stories about him are silly and that we shouldn't focus on him, we should focus on Jesus.

On Christmas eve, we leave cookies and milk for Santa, a carrot or two for the reindeer, and stockings hang from our, um, kitchen cabinet knobs. And on Christmas morning, our children find candy and gifts and a letter to each from Santa, telling them how great they are, how loved they are, how pleased their parents are with them, and how loving Jesus is the most important thing in the whole world. In mom or dad's handwriting. Love, Santa.