Monday, March 30, 2009

Today's "Bread for the Journey"

Here is what the late Henri Nouwen (pictured at the right) tells us today in Smiles Breaking Through Tears. "Dying is a gradual diminishing and final vanishing over the horizon of life. When we watch a sailboat leaving port and moving toward the horizon, it becomes smaller and smaller until we can no longer see it. But we must trust that someone is standing on a faraway shore seeing that same sailboat become larger and larger until it reaches its new harbor. Death is a painful loss. When we return to our homes after a burial, our hearts are in grief. But when we think about the One standing at the other shore eagerly waiting to welcome our beloved friend into a new home, a smile can break through our tears."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rockin' & Rollin', Steakin' & Shakin'

Well, this week I was supposed to be deep and heavy into writing. At the end of last year, I signed a contract for my first big contract curriculum writing assignment, and the due date is May 1st. I had hoped to get it done before our Costa Rica trip, but that turned out to be a mere pipedream. In mid-January, I marked off this week and last week on my calendar, reminding myself to leave my days as clear as possible so that I could get the bulk of it done. Last Monday, I sat patiently and began to wait for the writing fairy's visit. You see, she comes every now and then, bringing with her inspiration, motivation, creativity, and blocks of uninterrupted time.

It's the end of my two weeks, and I'm still waiting for her.

The good news, though, is that I've had a really good week of doing other things around the house that needed to get done, and catching up on emails and stuff like that. And I've gotten out for a couple of fun things, too, like this...
If you know me at all, you know that I am quite a fan of the Indigo Girls--for almost twenty years now. They just released yet another CD, and had a CD release show on Tuesday of this week at Criminal Records in Little Five, so Adam & I went with my friend Rachel and her two kiddos. It was great fun...the Girls did not disappoint and the kids all managed to summon up the required amounts of patience. Noah, Adam, & I were right AT the stage, so we got some good shots. Rosie and Rachel hung out a few rows back. The word is that Rosie enjoyed and was sufficiently awed at her first live exposure to the beautiful poetry and tunes of "my" Girls.

On Wednesday, we had a covert visit with Proctor Chambless, Mom & Dad's pastor from Dublin. It was their first time to see him since her diagnosis early last month, and it was a good thing. They spent the better part of the morning together, then he stopped by for a quick visit with me before he headed back down the road. According to him, his report to the Dublin folks will be that "Alice is not dying with cancer, she is LIVING with cancer." That was nice to hear, since that is what we are all aiming for.

Finally, last night, after another day of (not) writing, Mom & Dad suggested we go to Steak 'n' Shake for dinner. Because I had been busy (not) writing all day, I had nothing planned for dinner, and therefore thought was a great idea! Their Frisco melt makes me happy every time. So off we went. I was quite impressed that Mom ordered a double cheeseburger with fries and a small shake, and ATE THE WHOLE THING! I've been worrying about her not eating enough, and have encouraged her to eat protein in hopes that it might help keep her energy level higher. I'm not a doctor, but it seems to make sense to me. Dad ordered a double as well, with fries and a small shake, and he cleaned his plate too....but that's not all that unusual. :-) It was a good night out.

Mom & Dad continue to have a steady stream of visitors, which is truly a blessing, but also sometimes wears her out. It's nice that they have the company, the distraction, and the love that comes with each visit, but then again, it does tire her to have 3 or 4 visitors in one day. We're still trying to figure out the best way to balance the visits with the rest that she really needs each day. I keep thinking the visits will decrease with time, but it's been six weeks now and there's no sign of that. And I must admit that I think it's good for them both to have a reason to get up and moving each day. It is nice, though, when a day rolls around that there are no scheduled visits and no errands for them to run. I can see a big difference in her when she has a full-blown day of rest. The cards, flowers, letters, and emails keep coming, and those are wonderful! Her email address is Drop her a line if you feel so inclined. :-) She is truly loving her little netbook, and I continue to pat myself on the back for thinking of that one, and to be grateful to Dad for agreeing to buy it for her. And kudos and thanks as well to my dear sweet, ever-patient (most-of-the-time) Joel for setting up their wireless network.

All in all, this has been a good week. I realize that I posted the prayer on Sunday night, at the week's beginning. Thanks for those of you that have been in prayer for us. We have, indeed, been uplifted and strengthened by them this week.

We are in for a rainy weekend here in Atlanta. As I listen to the rain coming down, and see the droplets trail down the windows and drip from the trees, I am reminded that with God's "tears," all things can be and are made new. I am eagerly awaiting the profusion of more vibrant colors that I know will come soon.

Peace to each of you, this day and always.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Prayer for My Mama

Gracious God, thank you for the warmth I felt just now as I made the short walk home from Mom & Dad's house...for the sunlight and the clear blue sky, for the hint of spring in the air--a reminder that you are at work, making all things new. Thank you for this day and the many things that it has held--for worship this morning, for visits with friends along the way, and for the genine care and concern that those friends have shown for Mom, for me, and for our family, today and in the past few weeks.

Thank you, most of all, though, for Mom...for the mother she has been all these years, and the mother that she continues to be. Help her to know your peace, to feel your comfort, and to rest in the knowledge of your love and your care for her THIS day. Rest her worries and ease her fears about the tomorrows to come, reminding her as she has so often reminded me that she can do ALL things through you, and that her strength will come, as needed, from you. Hold her hand, God, and gently guide her through these next few weeks and months, giving her the strength she needs, the strength she wants, to continue to live her life to the fullest. Give her energy and motivation to share and laugh and reminisce with those who come to visit.

She is brokenhearted, God. Her heart aches for the things the she thinks she will miss in the years to come. Heal her heart, and help her to trust that you are greater than time and space. When her mind insists on thinking about the future, give her the courage, the excitment, even to begin to embrace the great unknown parts of death that so many fear. Keep her sure in the knowledge that YOU, not death, will have the final say, and that the final say is abundant, eternal Life. While we don't have any idea what that will look like, help us, help Mom, to trust in that great promise even though it is beyond mysterious to us.

Death will not come today or tomorrow, or even next week for Mom, God, so help her to keep her eyes and her heart focused on the here & now. Keep her ever-mindful of the many people whose lives she has touched over the years, and help her to be at peace with those many people being present with and for HER now. Help her realize that by allowing others to "do" for her, she is giving them a great gift....the gift of being pray-ers and card-writers and caregivers and friends.

And finally, Lord, be with those who continue to pray for and support us, both near and far. Help them to know that their prayers mean a great deal to us, that their prayers keep us going on days when we don't think we can take another step down this awful, dreadful road. Give them strength to continue the prayers, the gentle reminders of their love and support. It is the threads of those people that have formed the net that is below us--the net that will catch us when we fall, and thrust us even higher and closer to you.

This is a big prayer, but I pray it with boldness and with confidence that you are listening, and that you can, that you WILL, send the peace that passes all understanding to my sweet Mama now and in the days ahead.

It is in the name of your Son that this daughter prays....Amen.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Quick Update on Mom

Mom continues to be doing well. Tom and Calli both spent time here this last week while I was gone, and that was good. It gave them a chance to both visit with her and help with a few things around the house. We have all met Goldie, the Hospice nurse. She is wonderful, and has a great way with Mom. At this point, she will come once a week, on Mondays, to talk about any health-related issues that Mom wants to discuss, and to drain her pleural cavity. I continue to drain once mid-week, and on Saturday. We are still hoping that the need for the catheter will go away, but only time will tell.

Emotionally, she seems to be doing well. She gets very tired when she has more than one visitor a day, but then has a hard time saying no also. We have to figure out a balance there--how to keep her going without pushing her too hard, and how to be respectful and appreciative to all of the folks that want to come by for a visit. She continues to tire VERY easily, and I suspect it's just as much emotional tiredness as it is physical. But all in all, things are well. With the help of her family, Hospice, and her many friends, she is LIVING, not dying, and it is a lesson for us all.

Thanks, Mom.

Time Out for Thanks...

The fabric of my life has been woven with so many wonderful memories and meaningful relationships. Oftentimes, I get so caught up in the beauty and simplicity of times past that I have a hard time appreciating the present. Growing older…well, just life in general…can somehow makes things seems less beautiful and less simple. But thank goodness the memories remain. And when a glimpse of the past peeks into my life and jars my sensory memory, I feel a swell of gratitude, both for the time from which the memory comes, and the present moment that is allowing the memory to permeate my senses.

As I drove down Sunset Drive on Saturday, with Steve Winwood crooning, “It used to seem to me that my life went on too fast, but you have to take it slowly just to make the good parts last,” I am taken back to my senior year in college, sitting cross-legged on the floor in the Alpha Gam lodge with Faith, Jenny, Noreen, Stacy, Karol, Diane, and countless others, watching the slide show that Greg Howard put together for us, recapping the fun we had that year. And at the same time, I am able to see myself as a part of the memory-making for “my” students now, the PCMers at Emory, I and hope beyond all hopes that when they are in their 40’s, listening to songs from their college days, they remember their friends, and maybe even me, and smile.

As we listened to “Love You Down” by RFTW, I shared with my students the memory of my first dance with Joel in the Pi Kapp lodge at Mercer. It was to that song, and we talked about getting married even then, that very night, before we had dated, before we even knew each other very well. Yet somehow we knew. And I told them how very fortunate I feel to still be in love with my husband after almost 20 years. I shared with them that those 20 years had not always been easy, but that good, true relationships are not always easy, and that the work has been so very hard, while at the same time so very worth it. And as I see “my” girls struggling with their dating / boyfriend / relationship issues and questions, I am reminded of what it felt like to be young and in love, or young and wondering & waiting & questioning, and I smile. I’m grateful for those who traveled that road with me too, and I hope that when these girls are in their forties, they can look back on their dating experiences and be thankful for the way they helped them grown and learn more about themselves and about life in general.

As I talk with my seniors about their life post-graduation in May, I remember my first few years of "adulthood" after my own graduation from Mercer in 1988. It was then that I fell into my first vocation, that of a classroom teacher. It was a true calling, and I loved every minute of it...well, almost. I am grateful for the students I had in the classroom during my years of teaching math, whether at Mount de Sales, Montgomery Catholic, or Saint James. They taught me more about parenting teenagers than I realized at the time, and I think of them so often as we wade through the parenting of our own three sons, ages 10, 12, and 14. And the words of gratitude and remembering they have shared with me on Facebook in the past few months has been a wonderful affirmation for me during some hard times. It is a beautiful thing when former students, now in their early thirties, write to me things like this: "(My sister) and I were talking about the best teachers we ever had and you were on the top of my list. I really appreciate you, you were there for me during a very had time in my life." I don't think I fully appreciated the opportunity that being a classroom teacher gave me to touch the lives of students in deeply significant and permanent ways, and if I had realized the impact that I could potentially have, it might have scared me off, honestly. But as I continue to strive to do what I am called to do in this life, I am so very grateful for that first vocational call in the classroom, and the beautiful relationships that have grown out of that. I hope & pray that my graduating seniors are able to find jobs that aren't simply work for them, but rather are true callings, full of challenges and opportunities that they enjoy as much as I did my time in the classroom.

As I stood in the kitchen of Richard and Elizabeth Deibert with my students on Friday night, holding hands and asking God’s blessing on the wonderfully delicious meal, Richard’s prayer enveloped me with warmth. The comfort elicited by his soothing words and his familiar voice settled in all around me in a totally unexpected way. I was taken back…back to a time when my faith was a mere bud of a blossom…back to Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Mongtomgery. It was then that Joel & I began to learn what it meant to read Scripture in its own context, and what it meant to wrestle with a text. As I look where I am today in my faith life and in my ever-growing understanding of what it means to believe that God is constantly at work in this world, I hope beyond all hopes that when my students are in their 40’s, something might jar their sensory memory and they might remember the times we wrestled with a text or with a difficult question and smile, grateful for the small part that I and our small group played in their journey of faith.

Many of you reading this blog now are threads in the fabric that is my life. You check in every now and then to keep up with Mom’s health and you leave comments, so I know you are reading. But this post is much more about you and me than it is about Mom. You should know who you are, but in case you are not sure, I’ll remind you. If you shared good times and bad times with me during my childhood and teenage years in Dublin, I thank you for being a part of my life. If we hung out at Mercer during our college years, if you helped me learn more about “me” during those times, I thank you for being a part of my life. If you were in one of my classes during my years of teaching, either at Mount de Sales in Macon, or at Saint James in Montgomery, I thank you for being a part of my life. If you have talked about the difficult issues of faith and life with me, either at Immanuel, Fourth, or since we’ve been in Decatur, I thank you for being a part of my life. If you have read between the lines these past few weeks and seen the exhaustion on my face or heard it in my voice, and have offered to have the boys over for a few hours, or take them out for a few hours, I thank you for being a part of my life. Each of you has played a part in giving me the strength that I now have as a mother, daughter, wife, friend, pastor, child of God, person of faith. And I thank you for the ways you have walked with me, especially lately, on this continued journey we call life.

Traveling--to Florida and through time...

(This was written this past Saturday while I ws still in Florida with my students, but due to limited internet access while we were there, I'm just now posting it....)

It’s been a few days since I’ve blogged—I’ve been working. (Well, if you consider being in Florida on spring break with college students work…!) Six of my PCM students and I drove down to Sarasota, Florida on Wednesday for an alternative spring break. Thursday we visited Beth-el Farmworkers Ministry in Wimauma, near Bradenton, where we did a good bit of volunteering—cleaning a patch of heavy brush from a soon-to-be parking lot, dividing several fifty-pound bags of flour into 2 ½ pound bags for distribution in their food pantry, and sorting through bags and bags of clothes for their clothes closet. Friday we drove to Immokalee, a little town near Naples, where we toured and learned about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their struggle for better working conditions for Florida’s migrant workers. Finally, we spent the better part of Saturday at Siesta Key Beach, enjoyed a sunset at Turtle Beach, and ended our third and final day, our day of rest and play, at Phillipi Creek Oyster Bar and Restaurant for a great meal. It’s been a wonderful few days—a perfect balance of work, play, worship, education, and fellowship. Fun times.

It’s been hard for me to be here, though, in several ways. Being back on the coast makes me realize that my heart still aches for Costa Rica. For the beauty of God’s creation there, for its simplicity, and its freedom from distractions and superficiality. Joel took us back there briefly in his sermon last week, and just the vivid memory of it literally brought me to tears.

Then today, on the way home from the beach, I pulled out an old cassette tape from my college days. The van we’re traveling in only has a cassette player, so I brought along my old cassette case and have pulled out a few here and there. I don’t know what prompted me to pop Steve Winwood in the player, but I did, and as he sung “Back in the High Life” and “Finer Things,” I was immediately transported back to my own college days--the rich promises that felt so alive for me when I was that age, and friendships with which I was so blessed. It was almost more than I could take when we traded Steve Winwood for the soundtrack from Dirty Dancing and “I’ve Had the Time of My Life.” Wow. (Sidenote: Even Patrick Swayze has cancer—pancreatic. Damn that cancer…) As I look back on those days, I realize that life was so much simpler then. And a part of me misses them terribly right now. The complexity of my own life these past few months, and my spending the past four days, 24/7, with my Emory students makes me long for those times again.

But there’s no going back, is there? And if we could, would we truly want to? More later...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Weekend Update

Just a quick update to let you all know that as of this afternoon, Mom is now under care of Hospice Atlanta. While we expect to have her with us for a good bit longer, this is a good thing because she can get all the medical care that she needs right at home. That means we won't have to spend our time trekking up and down North Decatur Road to Emory. And it means that a nurse can help her with the draining procedure every now and then, and she will have folks who care about her and those of us who are her family caregivers who know about this whole cancer process checking on her (and on us), helping her figure out the right pain medication, etc. She will have a health professional that is available for her 24 hours a day, whenever she has a problem or a question or just needs someone to talk to.

The hard part for me is that it also is a real, concrete acknowledgement that my mom is dying. It is admission that she will not get better, but rather worse, as time goes on. But we continue to strive to enjoy the day...this day...and not worry about tomorrow. It is, indeed, a good lesson for us all.

Continued gratitude for your prayers and other signs of love and support--cards, flowers, meals, etc. All of that helps more than you can ever know.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Why Hospitality House?

So a couple of years ago when I started this blog, I chose the name "hospitality house" mainly because that is what I hope Joel & I have always had, and what those of you who have visited us over the past almost twenty years have felt when you were in our home. Whether it was Saint James students for brownies and Risk on the weekends (in the early days) or a whirlwind trip to Atlanta (in the more recent days), renegals from far and near for a bit of southern charm and hospitality, Greenville friends visiting us in Decatur, or seminary friends sleeping on our couch or on the floor, we have always tried to have a house that is warm and welcoming regardless of who visits. No promise of it being chaos-free, but there's always food on the table (or in the fridge) and a cold or hot beverage for anyone who comes by. :-)

Well, I receive a daily devotional from the Henri Nouwen Society that has been unusually timely during these recent difficult days. The one I received this morning is an apt description of why this blog is named what it is. Read on...

True Hospitality
Every good relationship between two or more people, whether it is friendship, marriage, or community, creates space where strangers can enter and become friends. Good relationships are hospitable. When we enter into a home and feel warmly welcomed, we will soon realise that the love among those who live in that home is what makes that welcome possible.

When there is conflict in the home, the guest is soon forced to choose sides. "Are you for him or for her?" "Do you agree with them or with us?" "Do you like him more than you do me?" These questions prevent true hospitality - that is, an opportunity for the stranger to feel safe and discover his or her own gifts. Hospitality is more than an expression of love for the guest. It is also and foremost an expression of love between the hosts.

It is this kind of hospitality that I strive to maintain in our home. And any of you who know Mom know that it is Mom who taught this to me. Those of you who know her know that there was ALWAYS an extra place at the table for anyone who showed up--from hitchhikers that my brothers picked up on their way home from God-only-knows-where, to the guest preacher of the day at HMPC, there was always room for one more. And it is because of that trait in Mom--her ability to make friends with anyone, and to make everyone feel welcome in their home--that we have been inundated with love, support, cards, and concern these past few weeks. It has been a true blessing, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

This week has been quite a whirlwind for us, but we have survived, indeed prevailed, I'd say. We've had only the one doctor's appointment on Monday, and have "rested easy" since then. I am getting better and better in my role as "nurse" when it's time to drain the excess fluid, and Mom is getting better and better in her role as patient. As you all might expect, receiving care is not easy for one who has done the caring so much of her life--but she is learning. :-) Dad, too, is learning--learning more than he ever cared to know about running a household! And he has been a champion about it. All in all, life is good.

So we plod along in this strange new space, with greater appreciation for each day and for the blessings that we have among us and around us. All in all, life is good. Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Woman's Prerogative

Tom, Calli, & I received this email from Mom this morning, and I share it here with her permission. The subject line read: Change of Mind.

"Last night I went to bed shortly after Ned got here & slept til 4:30 without even waking up. That was a gift!! Then I began re-thinking my decision to take the Tarceva. I prayed about it & prayed about it & thought about all of the ramifications. They really don't know how it will work for me, they say I will be tired & have diahrreah & can't go around anybody who is sick etc, etc, & they don't know how much time it will buy for me. SO I HAVE DECIDED TO JUST RIDE OUT THIS CANCER & "treat the symptoms" as they say. I believe my quality of life will be just as good if not better doing it this way. And who knows...I might live just as long & have a better quality of life leaving off that poison!!! I have not told your dad yet, but I think he will be just fine with this decision. I will get the pain medicine filled because I think I will need that down the road. It just sounded more & more like it would be doing something that would in the long road not make my life any better. I have lived 80 wonderful years, I want the last years to be as good as possible, with my knowing what is going on as long as possible.
So there is my FINAL DECISION!! Jill you can stop the wheels from turning about the insurance ever you need to do that!! And we will just enjoy the time we have to the fullest...all of us!!!
The birds are singing outside & I take that as affirmation!!!
God bless you everyone!!! "

I have hardly stopped crying since I read it about an hour ago--a wild mix of tears of sadness, relief, assurance, fear, respect, and selfishness. We have said all along, the three of us, that this is Mom's cancer and that it's Mom's decision--one we would respect wholeheartedly no matter what she decided. And we do. But that doesn't make it any easier.

With treatment of some kind, we were given the hope of a year or two, maybe even three. Without treatment, all signs point to months rather than years.

As I was sitting at the counter just now, working the Tuesday crossword through my intermittent tears, Daniel, unaware that I was upset, said "Happy Early Birthday, Mom!" I thanked him and said that I thought it would be a sad one this year. He came over and gave me a hug and said, "I know." I explained to him that Attee had decided to forego treatment, and that she would likely not be here for my next birthday. "I know, Mom. We just have to enjoy the time that we do have with her now."

He's twelve. He's wise. He's right.

So let's all do that, shall we? And who knows? The prayers of many and the strength of one spunky 80 year old lady just might be stronger than any cancer drug out there. I pray so.

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Brief Update

Those of you that have been keeping up with Mom's health via this site probably know that we had an oncology visit this morning. Things went well, and Mom decided that she would like to give the treatment option Tarceva a try. Briefly, we hope this will slow the growth of the cancer without the difficulty or side effects that are so common with traditional chemotherapy. If you really want to read more about it, visit the drug's website--she has "advanced non-small cell lung cancer." The doctor also wrote a prescription for a mild painkiller which will be nice since she is beginning to complain of pain that I suspect is related to the cancer in her bones. Mom tends to be very wary of painkillers, so I do hope she will at least give this a try. It's important for her to get good rest, and she can do that best when the pain is under control.

The appointment this morning was long--it was at 11:00, and we got home around 2:00--but the nurses and doctor took a great deal of time with us, and were wonderful. They answered all of our questions, and generally were as supportive as they could possibly be. We are so grateful to be so close to Emory! It is literally a 15-minute drive for us from door to door.

Mom's spirits were a bit low after the appointment--it was draining both emotionally and physically for us all--but a haircut for her on the way home perked her up a bit. She is showering for the first time in a week as I type, and when I finish this update, I will go drain her pleural cavity again, so by the end of the day she will be in good shape--squeaky clean and breathing well! :-) We have a wonderful woman from our church bringing us dinner--she mentioned pork, chicken, twice-baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, corn pudding, and green beans. That will be great, especially after our long appointment this morning / afternoon.

Dad is doing well, all things considered. He is learning about doing laundry, cooking, and using the microwave. And they occasionlly bicker back and forth as usual, which is oddly refreshing. He is sad, though, and all of this is incredibly hard on him. However, in true "Tommy" fashion, he is holding lots of it inside. I can tell, though, that his heart is breaking for his sweet girlfriend of 60+ years, and he is sad about the thought of life without her--something I daresay he never thought he would experience. So cards for him are greatly appreciated as well. He needs TLC just as much as Mom, if not moreso.

As usual, thank you all for the prayers and support. They continue to lift us all up and give us strength.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sandwiches and Peace

According to Wikipedia, the source of common knowledge for all things, except maybe God, the term "sandwich generation" is used to describe the generation of people who are caring for their aging parents while simultaneously supporting their own children. There is even a website by that name, designed to connect, nurture, and support those of us who are in that category. Many people may consider it a burden to be caring both up (for parents) and down (for children) simultaneously. However, I consider it a great blessing to have two wonderful parents and three terrific sons, and there are few greater privileges than to walk beside them in this life--laughing and crying with them, loving and caring for them. To have a loving, supportive spouse that willingly and patiently travels this road with us all is mere icing on the cake.

The gospel writer Mark often uses a "sandwiching" style in his writing. A "Markan sandwich" is a literary technique whereby the gospel writer interrupts a story with what appears to be an unrelated story. A classic example can be found in Chapter 5--the healing of Jairus' daughter is interrupted by the healing of the hemorrhaging woman. Anyone who has studied this, or others of Mark's "sandwich" stories knows that the interrupted story and the middle story are far from unrelated, although they may appear to be at first glance.

Yesterday, I began my day by leading the youth of Decatur Presbyterian Church, in which 2 or our 3 sons are participants, in their "break fast" service of communion from their 30-hour famine lock-in. While I did not observe the fast, I do know that starting the day with the Lord's Supper at 7AM was a rare blessing--a wonderful way to begin the day. (I must confess, however, that I did drink my coffee before I partook of the elements. Priorities, my friend, priorities!) And I ended my day in a similar way, leading the youth of Columbia Presbyterian Church in their "break fast" service of communion at 5:30 in the afternoon.

And in between, I cared for my mother. Since she cannot yet shower because of her recent medical procedure, I washed her hair for her in the kitchen sink, as she did for me on countless Saturday nights when I was a little girl. Then I carefully and deliberately followed the step-by-step instructions for draining the fluid from her pleural cavity for the third time--a procedure we currently have to do every other day. As she recovered from the pain that ensues each time we do that, I held her and stroked her hair. I reminded her of all the years she spent caring for me when I was a child, and assured her that it was, it is, indeed, a privilege to be able to care for her now, even as she continues to take care of me as well.

Just like a Markan sandwich, at first glance, those two "stories" may seem unrelated. It may seem a bit odd that my services of "breaking fast" were "interrupted" by my caring for my mother. But the meal that God gave us is a meal that provides strength and sustenance--bread for the journey of life, if you will. And the double reminder, those two meals of strength, sustencance, and nurture with which I was blessed yesterday, were reminders of the bond we share as Christ-followers--when we are at that table, and when we are out and about doing the work to which God calls us.

God called me to be both a daughter and a mother. And God, and God alone, can and will give me the strength, patience, and endurance that I need to live into those callings each and every day. There will be good days and bad days, I know. And while I'd still rather put this piece of chocolate in the nearest trash can rather than to claim it as "my piece," there is nothing more important to me right now than being present with and for my family--both up, down, and sideways. (That's you, Joel, as well as Calli & Tom...)

I continue to be overwhelmed with gratitude for the many prayers that are being offered on our behalf--for me, for my mom & dad, for my siblings, and for Joel & our boys. I can truly say that for the first time in my life, I am experiencing a peace that passes all understanding.

Thanks be to God for both sandwiches and peace!