Friday, December 28, 2012

Thank God for coagulation

Wouldn't you know it; the week that I was being held accountable for writing in this thing was the week that I stopped blogging.  Oh my poor accountability partner!

For the sake of forward motion, I will cheat and post a poem that I wrote a few months ago.  At least it's something, right?
(Note to readers: My favorite part of poetry is rhythm; yes, even with irregular meter.  I just picture irregular meter as unusual time signatures, like 7/8 or 5/4.  The best ones.  All that to say, please read it out LOUD.)

Thank God for coagulation

When the skin tears from its sleeve, when the rip is long and deep
The body whitens, puckers in horror,
And the Blood takes its own sweet time seeping out
Darker than a red red rose

By rights it bleeds and bleeds and bleeds
Shocks, laments in crimson tears.
And now it runs its race with zeal
Bursts bandages trying to cotton the shrieks

Don’t smother the sorrow that must be heard
Don’t beat back the Blood that must run down
Don’t say it is not when it clearly is The—
Is it not The End?

But now the red flow thickens
Slows, loses heart, is whisked into peaks.
The Blood brittles.  The wound littles,
And gradually closes its mouth.

The fire is buried in ash, in scab
The scab is vetted and fretted away
And only a long strike of lightning stays
That memory may always remain.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Really loving her

I used to think I loved my Mom.
Now I believe that I genuinely thought I loved her, probably actually did a smidgen, but largely just needed her.  I received her love as a child, guzzled it down.  Which is fine and dandy, but now I'm twenty six and slowly bumbling out of the heavy sweater of childishness.  {I'm growing up even as I'm growing younger.  Maybe by the time I'm fifty I'll know the feeling of being a little child.  Childlike without the prison of narcissism}

God gave me lots of chances to really love her this year.  I tried.  That's a whole other post.

Grief has a really obnoxious way of uncovering the heart when it's most naked.  Exposing disease.  I realized that I wanted my mother here WITH ME even more than I wanted her happiness.  And God's plans?  Screw it, I need her.  Here and now.
{I need her to believe that I'll finally get married and have all those kids and see all those beautiful    dreams and prophecies, the ones that are soft and frayed from daily praying, actually materialize into gloriously messy reality.  I need her to explain her recipes.  She never measured.  I need to tell her about Micala's wedding and Aaron leaving for grad school and my job imploding in the same three days, how well friends have loved me and how people can say really dumb things.  How I've hidden and tried not to hide, how I can't even talk to one of my closest friends on the phone because I just can't talk.  How my heart has finally been beaten into submission but I'm afraid I've beaten too viciously; it doesn't work very well now.  How I'm worried about not being worried that the old burning ache to see China worship has been covered in ashy sediment.  How I saw the ocean, saw the mountains, found a new artist and a new musician, that it all poured life on my soul.  How death is now a personal enemy and I feel power coursing through me when I sing, "Death where is your sting?" I know the devil hates it.  I have the authority to lord it over him, ha!  I will always keep singing.  If I can't today, I will tomorrow.  Just because of Jesus and lots of prayers.   How I've written ten songs this year, but too many of them are slow and in the key of A.  How I have no f-ing idea where my life is going.  How I'm in the mists; like when we hiked rain forests.  How darkness comes early and winter is breathing heavy like a wolf.  How days are bathed with the sheer exhaustion of being alive.}

A few months back I was hovering, wandering about the water cooler at work with an empty head and brimming eyes.  A coworker who had lost his Mom when he was about my age asked me something about name badges, and I stared stupidly up at him, a couple tears bleeding out.  He roughly gave me a side hug.  Advised me to remember that whenever I'm feeling selfish and want her here, just to remember how happy she is up in heaven.

I sniffed self-righteously and thought,  It's not selfish to want your mommy.

That's true.  Death is an obscenity to which we were never meant to become desensitized.
I've also argued with God since then, bringing up how hard Mom fought to stay on this earth.  Clawed for life.  Even with so much death around her, she would not acknowledge her dying body but fought the good fight.  But I know that she is adoring heaven.  I believe that she has assignments from Jesus that she's partnering with Him in, and also that she's part of the great cloud of witnesses.  If God is all around, maybe she's not as far away as I thought.

I hope that one day loving someone won't mean letting them go.  It will mean vowing to hold on, hold close.  {And even with Mom, I am not letting her go.  I am letting myself live.}

But at least for now, loving my mother, loving my friends, etc. means blessing who God has formed that person to be.  It means blessing them to go where He leads.  Even if it's not where I want them to be.  Even if I need them here, closer.
I get to love them the way God has given me to love them.  It's just frustrating that so often this means bitter, freezing pain.
{The buck always stops at God's character.  Always.  He's so brave that way, letting the root of every accusation slowly trace its way back to, Who do you say I am?  Because, naturally, he could have changed his plan so that my mother didn't die.  Just like he could have prevented so many things.  It's a gauntlet thrown down by the devil and God too--Will I still trust him?  Do I still say that He is overflowing with loving-kindness?}

But now I have the chance to really love my mother.  Not for what she can do for me, but to just LOVE HER.
To bless God's taking her.  To twist my lips into a half-smile after doing another batch of weeping when I think of her dancing.  I hear the overtones of her laugh sometimes, feel the life of her smile.  Her obstinate joy that conquered lymphoma.  I love her by getting up and living.

After all, she's only as dead as Jesus is.


a few thoughts on fear, and The Beginning

It computes, I suppose, that Christians tend to be the most fearful people I know.  We are called to higher things, to fling ourselves headlong into Love himself.  And so of course our adversary would pinpoint us with fear like a sniper, shooting until we collapse.

I know that the opposite of fear is love, that perfect love casts it out, and that God = Love.  But  living this truth is akin to breaking out of chain mail armor lashed with bolts and locks galore.  It's the sort of thing you can pour your lifeblood into, burst a lung over--a real battle.  The journey from fear into Love.  I want to write without fear.  I want to live without it.  I want to run so far from fear that I crash heavily into Love, again and again and again.

My mother taught me the most about not being afraid.  I do not remember her being afraid this year, not once.  Not when her hair was falling out.  Not when the prognosis was 9-11% survival (that just annoyed her, and she would not talk about it).  Not when chemo was making her old.

During my forty days of wearing black I haphazardly wrote the story of how she died, frantically finishing just before I reemerged in color.  It is extremely unedited and unfit for anyone to read--I'd have to kill ten people at least.
Nevertheless, it is honest.  It is called My Vanquishing Vanishing Mother (I can never resist alliteration).
I may occasionally post slices of the story; here is the beginning.  It relates to fear:

           My mother, LeMei Carolyn Moore Littlefield, celebrated the New Year 2012 with gusto.  She always did, praying and reflecting and celebrating.  A few days into the year I was getting off work and about to go to Zumba class.  I saw that my sister Micala had called me four times and had texted me that Mom was in the hospital.  My Dad had also called.  I quickly called my father, panic rushing to my throat and stabbing my gut.  He told me that Mom had never gotten over her cold of three weeks and that her cough was worse.  She had gone to the local clinic that had immediately taken her to an ER in Denver, at St. Joseph’s hospital.  I was not to worry.  They were running tests to see what was wrong.
            I cried a few frightened tears and my roommate Nicole hugged me.  She advised me to still go to Zumba, which I did.  The next day I went up to the hospital after work.  My beautiful Mom was there.  She looked so vulnerable in a flimsy hospital gown, but wore a calm, reassuring smile.  I hugged her, and after a few minutes couldn’t hold back the tears.  She held my hand and told me that I don’t have to be afraid; fear is never of God.  She had some painful procedures, and asked me to step outside while the nurse took a bone marrow sample.  Afterwards she mentioned that it hadn’t been that bad; I probably could have stayed.  The early days seem like such child’s play in contrast to the end, where she couldn’t hide the pain anymore and held my hand so tight.

Mom told me not to be afraid, and she also commented that worry was a form of fear.  God had been talking with her about that.
I have not lived that well this year, but her words sank like granite to the bottom of my soul.  Now I'm not quite so easily swayed to worry.  I've got a bit more weight of glory in me.  Precious little, but I can feel it.  Maybe it's from her.

{On a side note, that first day was the only time I cried in front of her in the hospital.  
Fitting, surreal, nauseating.}

I was going to wrap this thing up with a few pithy takeaways to avoid fear but the words taste false.

Honestly, 2012 has left me with more, not less, fear.   I don't have more separate fears, but rather a heightened foreboding of their fulfillment.  The worst thing really can happen.  It does, all the time.  In another six months, who else will slip away?  There seem to be no rules.  The ones we have, that keep our universe bolted into place, have ample room for horror.
Remembered pain grows into an evil tsunami, lurching over me as it grows and shadows the future.

It really is true--only one thing remains.  Jesus.
Love himself.  He is with us.  He died to make that happen.  And whatever horrors happen, there is grace rippling alongside.  That's all I got.  It doesn't feel comforting, it doesn't feel kind, it doesn't feel good.

But He is more real than feelings and He is enough.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Praying for people

Today I prayed for women who came into a free healthcare clinic connected with my local church.  I am now part of an intercession team that offers prayer to women who desire that before or after their doctor's appointment.  Some come back solely for the prayer.  
And I suck at it.
I used to know how to do this--I have been on countless prayer teams, formed a college prayer group centered on dessert (if there's ice cream, they will come), gone through a prayer internship, and been a full time intercessor for years.  You would think I could pray for people.

And I can.  I do.  Prayer happens.  Worship happens.  God is glorified.  But secretly I think it's all a joke--me, who can barely get out of bed, offering people prayer!

But I hobble to and fro in absolute exhaustion, worship, feebly ask women if they would like prayer, and am shocked if they say yes.  
And I am jarred out of my selfish grief world.  And thank God that I have a car and not an abusive ex-husband.  And I continue to pray for them.  And start to ache for them, but then my heart saltily reminds me that I'm in way too much pain as it is, and to shut the hell up about these other people (my heart often has a potty mouth).  And I'm disgusted by my myopic self-centeredness in a helpless sort of way.

I've never been this weak before.

Today I arrived just as a mother, grandmother and little girl were being prayed for.  Afterward, as they waited for a prescription, the three-year old girl spied a stash of children's books and greedily grabbed an armful.  Girl after my own heart.  
She looked around, and caught my eye.  I smiled and offered to read them to her.  We read through a couple, and I became increasingly concerned by her lack of engagement.  I always try to involve kids as I read to them, and she would not point out where the crab was, turn the page, or really do anything.  She didn't say a word.  I know it doesn't seem like much, but I knew something was wrong.  From her eyes and a half dozen other things.  She was not in a good situation, and I could do absolutely nothing except pray for her.

I cannot relay how horrible it is to see children shut down and lifeless, and know that abuse is happening RIGHT NOW but that it will probably be years before it stops, and more excruciating years before God addresses it and they slog through the awful miry bog toward healing.  If at all.  I told another lady, and we prayed, and I'll keep praying.  Who knows what is going on.  Who knows what God will do because we prayed.

Oh but it grates on my soul.   Kyrie eleison.  Christe eleison.  
Jesus, you have such a brave heart to refuse to give up on this place where we live.  
Jesus, rescue the little girl with the old eyes.   Do your thing.  I love it when you do (actually, that's a complete lie.  I love it afterwards).

Gentle knead her soul into breathing.

my soul, juiced

Well, here we are.  The first blog of 2012.  I've spoiled myself with tea and ambience and time, and now all that's wanting are words to fill the empty page.  And hopefully some mental engagement to accompany said words.

Some years your heart is mistaken for a dirty washcloth and goes through the wringer.  {Oh this post is da bien.  keep going. keep going.  One of these days I'm going to write a secret blog that has cuss words galore, and it will be secret except for those who will understand and appreciate profanity's highly debatable place in literature.  I will strain my coarse venom out of this blog, however.  This blog is a lady.}

I can't say who does the wringing, but I know who cleans up afterwards.  A soul crushed into jagged realities--what a bloody mess.  Like a lemon cut and mashed into a juicer.  How do you heal that?

I've been holding off writing for at least 11 months because I've felt I've had absolutely nothing to say.  Now I see that there is much to be said, but I'm not sure how to say it, and don't trust myself to handle things adequately.  Also, I feel like it would just plain be too sad.
But regardless of whether or not people read it, I must write.

Out of courtesy for my fragile mental state:
1. I am not going to start linking my blogs to facebook. At least not for a while.  (What would become of my reputation as a relatively sane individual?)
2. I am not going to worry about making sense.  That would take far too much mental contortion.
3. I am going to write in sketches.
4. I am not going to expect very good writing.
If you still want to read this after all those conditions, Lord love you.  And grant you grace and mercy!

A typical morning in grief:

             I wake up and cringe.  Remember Regina Specktor's lyric, I am awake and feel the ache.  Wish I knew more about her life.  Press snooze ten times.  Scrunch my comforter over my bedhead and groan like a toddler.  Look at pictures of my mother on my wall.  Miss her.  Play her voice like a phonograph in my mind.  Wonder, fear prickling, how much longer I'll remember.  Look again.  Stare.  Hit the snooze.
             Remember that Christmas is coming and I don't know where her coffeecake recipe is.  We have to have the stupid coffeecake.  It's Jesus' birthday cake.  Stare.  I'll make it with too many chocolate chips, I know I will.  It will be mushy and all wrong.  Stare.  Blink.  Stare.
             I recall how annoying it was when she'd wake me up, because she'd be preternaturally chipper, her voice jumping an octave in sing-song.  I would motion for her to come next to my bed, and I'd bury my face in her stomach, and she'd hug me.  I would feel about five and be happy.
I close my eyes and feel dead weight forming beneath my eyelids.  That's right, I sobbed right before bed.  Crap.  Am I getting eye bags?  Can grief do that?  That's so unfair.  Should I get another brand of concealer?  If I just managed to sleep, it'd probably take care of itself.  God.  God.  Jesus Jesus Jesus.  Be with me.  Near.  Really near.  
              I stare at the white of my comforter, then at the creams and yellows in my room with the morning streaming in.  An aspen room.  It's so pretty.  I should appreciate the aesthetics.  I wonder how old I'll be when I die.  Jesus Jesus Jesus.  Jesus.  Finally, finally finally I scrape the cover off and stumble up, dizzy.

Music. On. Good.  Getting dressed.  Decisions.  Oh dear.  That requires thinking.  My feet are cold.  I always get grumpy with cold feet.  Socks, socks, socks---No, you FOOL!!  MAKE YOUR BED!  It's a matter of national security!!  Make it NOW!! NOW!!! MAKE IT!  Billions of LIVES depend on it, the fate of the Middle East--JUST MAKE YOUR--ok.  Good.  Done.  HA!  I made my bed! With cushions!  I'm a success at life!  Yes.  Thank you Jesus.  Now what in the world was I doing?  Um...teeth.  Brush your teeth.  Oh bother, my feet are cold.  Socks!  Right.  Socks.  What time is it?  OH CRAP!  Brush your socks!  BRUSH them!  No...

It is a miracle I leave the house acceptably dressed.  If I have earrings on, it's a special miracle.

I have, however, taken the precautionary step of donning a onesy to bed.  That way if I completely lose it, I will show up to work halfway decent.  Or at least warm.