Wednesday, February 25, 2015


I’m still in the winter season of Memphis. Tonight, the world stopped spinning around here because an inch of snow fell to the ground. Schools are all closed tomorrow, churches all cancelled their mid-week services, and all the white bread is gone off the grocery shelves. I’m sure if you threw in mama, a pick-up truck and a cheating heart, someone in these southern parts could write a country song about this.
I can make fun because I was born and raised in the south. These are my people. No matter that I’ve lived the last thirty-nine years in Wisconsin. I only have to pass the Mason/Dixon line and my twang comes back all on its own. But since I’m sporting Wisconsin plates I do have to drive extra careful cuz if someone’s going to be stopped it’s going to be the ‘Yankee’. 
I’m here in Memphis to see family and to take care of my parents. Dad’s in the nursing home with end-stage Alzheimer’s and Mom has recently had a stroke. She’s okay for now, feisty, argumentative, and still telling me to get my hair out of my eyes. I’m glad I’m here. I was needed and I came running. That’s what daughters do... if they know what’s good for them.
The winter season, that just about sums up my life right now. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or complaining. It’s just the truth. The sun has a hard time shining around me. I’m hurting still. My footsteps are unsure and hesitant. My anchor threatens to shift. And, I can’t get my bones warm.
The good news is that in my entire life, whether I was living in the south or the north, spring has never failed to follow winter. Never! I’m counting on it how. I’m staking my heart on it. The sun will come out. My bones will thaw. My path will be illuminated. My steps will once again be sure. And my anchor will hold.
Are you having a hard time believing there’s good coming while the snow still swirls overhead? In the north we have what we call Thundersnow, a very rare occurrence that usually takes place only in late winter. It’s a perfect winter storm consisting of snow, thunder, and lightning. It’s scary. The boom, the crack of lightning and fat, icy flakes converge and try to convince you that your world is coming to an end. But it isn’t. In its own quirky way, a Thundersnow is spring’s calling card. It’s a reminder that beauty and promise are up ahead.
God is so creative don’t you think? Nobody but He could give us such a show and tell and such a steadfast promise.

“When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation.”     ~ Proverbs 10:25

Monday, February 16, 2015

". . . where I've been . . ."

I’m visiting my family in Memphis and this morning I woke to sleet, a tiny bit of snow, and icy roads, windshields and tree branches that looked like popsicles. I left Wisconsin for this? However, I have heard that at one point last night the North Country recorded a -30 wind chill.  Makes Memphis seem quite balmy in comparison.
I’ve come south to help take care of my parents. Dad is in the nursing home and Mom was admitted to the hospital on Sunday. For 87-year-olds, they’ve been pretty healthy until recently, strong, and spry with a little kick in their steps. Unfortunately, the hounds of aging catch up with all of us eventually. My brother and I are trying to honor our parents with care and patience. As for me, I feel I’m useless at times. While it has been sixteen month since I lost my husband to cancer, I fear grieving has taken its toll. I find it hard to ‘muster’. I tire quickly and my coping skills are spotty at best. I think I’m doing all right then Boom! Something happens and I’m back at Day One trying to navigate the turbulent emotions of loss. This time the trigger was being in a hospital room again. The last three years of my husband’s life hospital stays were a huge part of the landscape. One whiff of that sanitized air and the post-traumatic stress kicked in big time.
Benjamin Scott Allen who lost his wife and two sons to HIV says in his book, Out of the Ashes- Healing in the AfterLoss, “No matter how far I go I still had to live with where I’ve been.” As the loss scabs over and I think I’ve beaten it or at least moved far enough along to not feel so raw and edgy, the truth is I carry it with me always. The loss is now a part of my fabric. The stress of watching my husband die for three years could not be more conspicuous than if I had grown an extra limb over those three years. It takes very little to send me back there—a smell, a breeze, the feel of certain fabrics.
With that said, I do believe I’m better. I have made strides. I am healing. I’m still learning what my new normal should look like. I’m more willing to admit my limits. I’m learning how to live alone and not be held captive by loneliness. It’s hard to separate the two but I must. Living alone won’t kill me, but loneliness can.
So here I am. Freezing in the South. Keeping the roads hot from nursing home to hospital and back again, and trying to be useful, supportive and as good of a daughter as my own loss will allow. If I am to be honest, there are times when I lay my head down at night and I wonder where God is in all of this. What does God want me to see, hear, and do? I ask, but the insulation in the room seems to soak up my words.
I haven’t turned the corner yet. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t.  But, I will get there. I’m further than I once was. A tiny light has sparked within. On cold nights, I can feel the promise of its warmth. Maybe that’s what mercy feels like?
Wishing you extra blankets and another log on the fire.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"I save you..."


"Are you a princess? I said & she said I'm much more than a princess, but you don't have a name for it yet here on earth."
                           ~ Story People by Brian Andreas

Last weekend I got to hang with three of my grandchildren. It was a pleasant experience full of giggles and battles. Giggles, because they are so darn cute. Battles, because two/thirds of these particular grandchildren are boys. Everything is about battles—zombie war battles, monster chasing battles, dragon training battles, and small pretend woodland creatures that can suddenly sprout teeth and claws and turn on you in an instant. I came home with a cadre of new bruises. Who knew that playing hide-n-seek could be so physical? These darlin’ boys squeal, wrestle, and sword fight as their father and uncles before them. It was a trip down memory land. I was in my element.
But, it is their two-year-old sister who became the heroine of the day. As her three-year-old brother morphed into a killer gopher with a growl that could turn a heart to stone, it was she, this curly-top, dimpled-cheek, fairy-like Braveheart who protectively covered her MeMe’s head with her pudgy, little hands and declared, “I save you!” And she did. Every time.
“I save you, MeMe.” Her sweet hands would cradle me with a tenderness that took my breath away. Her unselfish, sacrificial willingness to protect me against the evils of Make-Believe Land restored my soul. I couldn’t wait for the next ambush, because I knew that Nellie Rose would rescue me and hold me in her precious arms.
“I save you.” I’ve heard those words before. In fact, during this last year, I’ve heard them lots. In the middle of the night when loneliness was about to devour me, a whispered war cry could be heard through the dark, “I save you!” And, peaceful sleep would return. When I wept so long and so loud in the middle of the day, standing in front of the kitchen sink, a small voice rumbled up through my heart and shouted, “I save you!” And the tears would stop. And just today, when I ran across an old email I’d kept from two years ago from my Beloved, a note that simply said, “I love you, Chickenblossom!” I thought my heart would burst from the pain and longing those few words evoked. I wept. I begged. I pleaded for mercy. And, just when I thought I could no longer bear the sorrow, I heard, “I save you.” And, He did... once more.
God is mysterious, and His care for us is confusing and miraculous and at times too wonderful to understand. But I’m here to bear witness to this: God saves and sometimes He employs the unlikeliest of rescuers. For me, it is a two-year old little girl. She boldly stands between me and the gnarly devastation of loss and in a tiny voice proclaims, “I save you, MeMe. I save you.”
And she does, by the grace of our God, she does.
~ deb