Wednesday, June 15, 2016

When You Are Living A Nightmare And You Desperately Want To Wake Up


This day didn't happen. This didn't happen. I close my eyes. Darkness. I toss and turn, distressed. The sweat breaks out.

I heard the news report. Desperation flooded my soul. The baby had been dragged into the water by an alligator. At Disney World, the best place on earth.

How many times have we played on those beaches? How many times do we dip toes near to danger? How many times do we dig our toes into near-terror?

Little kid buckets, shovels, rakes. 

Footloose and fancy-free.

Year after year since my girls were eight and six. The beautiful beaches. The water you'd never go far into. But the beaches that you'll run along the shore ... the ones that aren't marked: "Caution: Alligators" ... The water's edge you'll sit by. Feed the ducks by. Throw out bread. Soak your feet in on a hot day, while taking a break from the rides and the park thrills. 

My heart cries out for those parents. The parents who tried to grab that baby. The ones whose strength was no match for the beast. The ones whose hearts sank lower than anyone can estimate. The ones who will have to fight to recover their own hearts.





A dream come true turned nightmare.

The weight attached to my heart sinks deeper in the mud and mire. 

The eyes of our children sinking to despair, to tragedy, to disease, to cancer, to pain.

The last breath.

Say something.

The eyes begging for relief, help, mercy.

And through a strangled cry, we beg God--take me instead.






How? How do you press on after a loss like that? After swallowing a defeat so massive? 

Some things we never get over. We never quite recover.

You'd have to tell your story. Through tears and heart-shredded insides, you'd have to open your mouth and tell what you witnessed. Tell what you did right, to no avail, and what you did wrong. Tell what you wish you'd have done. Tell what you wish you hadn't done. You wouldn't even be allowed a chance to hide, to dig into the mattress and cover yourself with feathers, fear, fault, agony, failure, fury. 

A chance to cry out--"Oh, God ... why?" All alone. 

But then you get alone. And you cry and cry and cry. You sleep and sleep and sleep. You wish away time and time and more time. You wish to never wake up. You wish to wake up and find it all a nightmare.

But one day, you'll open your eyes from the deepest of sleep. You'll find the sun shining slight rays again. The waters won't look so murky, you'll see blue. You'll see the ducks and not the deep. You'll see the glory of the waters and not the gore. 

You'll forgive yourself and forgive others. 

You'll know you're forgiven.

You are forgiven. Forgiven by yourself, by others, by God.

You'll accept that we don't know everything, we can't see everything, we can't understand everything, we can't be everything. We're fallible, human, faulty, frail.

And a thing called hope will flood your soul. It'll reach out and grab hold of you. And you'll allow it to soak you in. Take you under. Deep. A new day.




You'll look into the eyes of those remaining, of those you love, of those who love you, of those who don't want to live this life without you.

And you'll realize you have something to offer once again.




Things will be different. But it'll prove the best place on earth once again. 

It will.

Trust it will.



Thursday, June 9, 2016

Giving Up My Life--WMU Blog Post


“We aren’t sure what’s wrong,” said the emergency room doctor.
I’d been experiencing four days of abdominal pain accompanied by a low-grade temperature.
“Your doctor said it could be your appendix leaking infection.” He paused. “But we aren’t sure what that soft mass is.”
Cancer?

This is just a snippet. I'm blogging today over at WMU

And I'd love for you to join me there. 

2014 Surgery ... I look a fright. I felt a fright, too. 



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Enjoy This Time With Your Children


Everyone tells you. Every mother will tell you. Every grandmother will tell you

~Enjoy this time with your children because they grow so fast~

As I sit rocking you, I ponder that wise advice. Though you didn't come from my body, I hold you close to my chest and feed you from the bottle, as though you did. I love these early morning hours, just you and me. I love how you watch me when you drink your milk. And your hands firmly grip the bottle, until you realize I have it all covered. And then your sweet fingers venture over to mine, touching, discovering the hands that hold you. 

With a full tummy, your sweet eyes close, and I lay you down in your baby bed. After patting your back, I notice the label on your little jumper sticking out at the back of your neck"if they could just stay little." Little you. I tuck it back in place. I'll go fill another bottle to have ready for when you wake up crying.



I hear you crying. I rush toward your room with bottle in hand, my heart thudding wildly. I'll change your diaper first. We have an amazing routine going. 

As I turn the corner, you slip off your toddler bed and toddle toward me. "Hi, Mama," you say. You run past me to the bathroom in your big girl pants. "I gotta go potty." I do a double-take. What? Where? I remember what my best friend said

~Enjoy this time with your children because they grow so fast. But each stage just gets better and better~













I fill your juice cup and screw on the lid. You grab on to that cup like it's your best friend and take a few sips. That cup slips right out of your hand, landing on my big toe. A few tears surface, but who has time for that? You scramble up into your big kid chair and start devouring the chopped carrots and green beans that you love. When you're done, I've got the perfect book selected"Guess How Much I Love You." I long for story timewatching you select books and back up, plopping down in my lap. I chuckle, knowing my lap had better be there. 

I hear you say, "Mama, I'm done." Leaving unfinished dishes, I hurry over to the table to check on your progress, help clean you up, get ready for that story time. You look up at me, with a snaggle-toothed smile, and say, "Mama, I finished my cursive practice. I'm ready to read my book all by myself." I take away your half eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich, seemingly in slow motion, remembering what my friend said

~Enjoy this time with your children because they grow so fast~





The door creaks open. Are you done with school work? Maybe I'll find you playing on your tricycle or big-wheel. I hear a yelp and wonder if you've been hurt. On day one of school your leg got scratched outside, and you said, "I got hurt on my first day of kindergarten."

I rush to the door and sling it open. You two-wheel it up to me on your big-girl bike, laughing. And I don't even remember teaching you how to ride. Your bike drops to the ground. You fly past me. "I'm going to watch a Barbie movie. Princess and the Pauper is on," you say. The queen grabs her remote. My friend comes to mind. What did she say?

~Enjoy this time with your children because they grow so fast. But each stage just gets better and better~





Maybe you'd like popcorn with your movie. I love how we watch a movie together sometimes, or a cartoonLittle Bear or Franklin, especially on rainy days. We'll split a bag of popcorn. I rush to get a bag popped so I don't miss the movie. Maybe you'd like lemonade, too. 

I turn the corner into the living room. You've finished off a whole bag of popcorn by yourself. You fidget with the popcorn stuck in your braces. And an empty can of Dr. Pepper sits on the floor. On a sugary high, you stand and twirl.

~Enjoy this time with your children because they grow so fast~




Maybe you'd like your ballet outfit to twirl in, since you love dancing. I rush into the bedroom, open the sticking drawer, and pull out your pink tights, pink ballet shoes, black leotard with sequined skirt.

I barely get the drawer shut when I hear, "Mama, I need help with my hair." Maybe you're trying to wrap your hair in a top knot, like you do for ballet class. I grab bobby pins along the way. As I enter the room, a young man is slipping a corsage on your wrist, and you're heading out the door for a Homecoming dance. Wait. Did we even show him the shotgun? I re-position the diamond pin in your hair.

~Enjoy this time with your children because they grow so fast. But each stage just gets better and better~


I hear you thudding around upstairs. I paced the floor all evening. I run up to check on you. You're already in bed, tucking the covers under your chin. Make-up off, showered, teeth brushed. I dent the mattress edge, leaning in to you. 

"Mom, I'm a little nervous about starting college." Tears seep into your eyes. "About growing up."

My, oh my, I'm afraid to go to sleep and wake up. Where did the time go? I remember the baby that you were. When your tiny hand wrapped snuggly around my pinky finger. That was just this morning. And then I envision the lady that you'll be. Will you be teaching school? Or will you be taking someone's hand in marriage? I rub over your sweet forehead, brushing back the hair, and dab your forehead with kisses. 

You take my trembling hand in yours, holding firmly. 

"Don't be afraid," I say. 

~Enjoy this time with your children. Each stage just gets better and better~







Thank you to Karalee Littleton, Ronda Wetherbee, and Becky Wademy inspirations.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

When it's Time to be a Mary


The pain in my heart breaks through to my mind. The ball of pain rides every wave, pinging every emotion. I delete post after post. Nothing is right. Nothing I can say or write is right. The pressure in my chest tightens. Where is air?

Shelli, what is wrong with you?

I long for my grandmother. 




When life gets tough, when I want to cry ... I want my grandmother. 

I can hear her laughter on the phone. I can see and feel and smell everything about her. White Shoulders. Her tiny Avon lipstick samples. Bengay. Pond's cold cream.

She was my go-to person all my life. And my vision clouds over with tears. I want to sit in her lap and hear her say, "No matter how big you get, you'll always be my baby." 

But she's in Heaven, and I'm here.




Father, I feel an incredible emptiness in my heart and head. Do you hear me? Do you understand? What can I do?

And I hear my Father say, "Shelli Ann, come sit with me."

My knees cap the ground.

"You've been a Martha far too long, trying to avoid feeling. Staying busy to avoid feeling. It's time for you to be a Mary. Come sit at my feet. Remain here. And feel. Cry. Want me. Long for me. Let me be your go-to person. I'm the only one who has ever filled that emptiness in your life, in your heart."

My hands touch His knees, and my tears drip to His feet. I wipe the dampness on His feet with the only thing I possess--my hair. My focus returns to His face.

"Don't you see? You're missing me. Come to me. See and feel everything about me. Because no matter how big you get, you'll always be my baby."


~~~

Do you become a Martha when you hurt? Do you stay busy to avoid feeling? Do you ever hear the Father's reminder to become a Mary?



Dear Mary


One sitting at those precious feet
That will never be taken away
One complaining, "Tell her to help me"
But at Jesus' feet you did stay.
You saw He raised your brother
Surely heard water turned to wine
You would saturate the feet of Jesus
There was no perfume too fine.
You sat at the feet of Jesus, Mary
The distractions weren't a care
You poured the oil on His precious feet
And wiped them with your hair.
When a dinner was given in Jesus' honor
You let Him graciously pick up the bill
When others would scold, He said, "Leave her alone"
And your house He did fragrantly fill.
Mary, Mary, you chose the best
As Jesus would lovingly side
Because you knew in your heart, Dear Mary
Jesus would always provide.
- by Shelli Littleton (copyright 2013)


Dear Martha

One sitting at those precious feet
Listening to Jesus sharing
One is steadily working
Accusing Him of not caring.
You saw He raised your brother
Surely heard water turned to wine
Saturate the feet of Jesus, Martha
Is there a perfume too fine?
Sit at the feet of Jesus, Martha
The distractions will be okay
Emulate Mary; do the best thing
"It will not be taken away."
When giving a dinner in Jesus' honor
Let Him graciously pick up the bill
Take off those shoes; recline with Him
And your house He will fragrantly fill.
"Martha, Martha, 'Only one thing is needed,'"
Jesus would lovingly chide
Didn't you know by now, Dear Martha
That Jesus would always provide?
- by Shelli Littleton (copyright 2013)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reflecting the Light from Above -- A Repost in Honor of Mother's Day


Her fingernails and toenails had all been soaked and clipped, and the pink on her toenails reflected the light from above. Satisfaction seeped from my soul.

"Ma-Maw, it's time to wash your hair." I smiled, encouragingly nodded. The long, frayed ends of gray hair were not her normal. No, she'd kept her hair short and tidy for as long as I could remember. I have one picture of her with longer hair, when she was 26.




"No. I don't need it washed," she said emphatically.  

"Please," I pleaded.

"Okay." The defeat in her voice broke my heart.

I had already set the kitchen table with my necessitieswarm water, shampoo, towels. I'd have to work quickly. 

I walked her fragile self over to the kitchen slowly and carefully, and she sat down in the wooden chair. Though I counted it a privilege, I felt overwhelmed. I had been assigned a task by family and didn't quite know if I could pull it off. But I'd said I'd do it. And I'd do it. I'd try.

I had to think outside the box because she was too frail to get into the bathtub. Her back was too frail and painful to lean over into the sink. She could barely make it into the car to go to her doctor appointments. Going to a hair dresser deemed out of the question.

Why did I feel like the one deemed useless? I was scared. And I couldn't have her slipping on that floor. I couldn't risk another bone in her precious back broken.

I wrapped towels around her soft pink nighty and around the chair. Warm water gently poured from the pitcher in my hand's grasp over her precious hair. In the middle of the kitchen.

"It's cold." She began to pout and cry like a little child. But getting a glimpse of her as a child was precious. A smile grew across my face. It would be over so soon.

With the shampoo rinsed out, I wrapped her in warm towels, slipped a baby blue clean nighty over her sweet head, and led her back to her chair in the living room. Fresh and clean.

"Ma-Maw, it's time to trim your hair," I said as I combed her beautiful tangles. The first time I had ever cut her hair. Little did I know, it would be the last.



Every now and then, she'd utter, "That's good enough." Her patience was growing thin.

As I dried her hair, I couldn't wait to curl it, to mask the uneven layers by my imperfect hands.

"Ma-Maw, this is the last curl. Let me just spray it with hair spray, and we'll be done." In her weak condition, this was a traumatic experience for her. 

"There. All done, Ma-Maw." I smiled, relief seeping from my weary soul.

"I want to see it." She stood to her sweet feet like a spring chicken and walked with renewed energy down the hallway and into the bathroom. She looked into the mirror and smiled. "Thank you, Baby. That's real pretty. I appreciate you for doing that."

I couldn't refrain the giggles dispensing from my heart and lips ... her attitude had completely changed. It was the best idea she'd ever had.







Because I'm missing my grandmother. Are you missing someone special?




Monday, May 2, 2016

When a Mama's Heart is Covered in Band-Aids


My heart joyfully, painfully broke. The first day I saw Little Girl in the flesh, the day she breathed her first breath, she had an infection and required a baby IV. She scratched her tiny face raw with it. From the bottom of my heart, the slight break began and inched its way slowly upward. And long before she had the IV removed and received her first princess Band-Aid, I placed my very first Band-Aid over my mama heart.




Little Girl fell when she was a tiny tot. Her mouth kissed a land timber against her will in our front yard. Oh, she cried. I cried. I placed ice on her sweet lip when she'd tolerate it, and I placed a Cinderella Band-Aid on my own heart. I'll never forget how traumatic the event was, but we were so blessed that she didn't lose any teeth or need stitches. Thank you, Father. After she cried herself to sleep, I laid her down in her sweet baby bed. I peeked in at her as she was waking. She eased to a sitting position and said, "Big." I nearly fell to the floor laughing over her remark. And oh, her sweet lip was so swollen.




Not long after that, Littlest Girl had a kidney tumor. It was the nightmare you imagine. And better and worse than you imagine. Littlest Girl had to be poked and prodded. Continual blood-work. Whenever the nurse would cover Littlest Girl's arm or finger prick with a Band-Aid, Little Girl wanted one, too. And she'd take and place her bandage on her sweet body in the exact same spot as Littlest Girl's. It was her sweet way of empathizing with her sister. And this mama would open the white wrapper to a Mickey Mouse Band-Aid and place it over her own heart.




As the years passed, boo-boos came and went. More bandages placed over this mama's heart. The thickness grew and grew, the colors growing wide and vivid.

Little Girl was at church one night. She scooted over on the bench to let a friend sit down. Before she could move her hand, friend sat down on her thumb. It broke. Little Girl was so brave. Her broken thumb didn't matter one bit to her, but her friend's broken heart did. We spent the wee hours of the morning in the hospital's emergency room. And this mama added one pink Barbie Band-Aid to her heart.




Little Girl and Littlest Girl are growing up. One's a senior. One just turned Sweet 16. Little Girl just got her first car. This mama's heart can barely take it at times. Every time my girls leave out in that car, without their mama chaperon, I walk into the bathroom, open the cabinet, and look through the assortment of Band-Aids before me. What will it be today? Winnie the Pooh? Superman? Hello Kitty? Hearts? Minnie Mouse? Tinkerbell? Disney's Frozen.





But that's what mamas do. Right? We love our kids. Through broken bones, broken toys, broken dreams, broken hearts. Because love always takes a risk. But it's the pain and the cuts and the scrapes on our hearts that turn it more beautiful, brighter, more colorful. 

And as the thickness of the bandages grows, the padding becomes softer. And with the extra softness, we're able to take a little bit more in order to comfort others a little bit more. Like ... to comfort our children. To offer a soft place for our children to place their head against our hearts as we hold and comfort them. No matter how old they get. And for one day to comfort our children when our grandchildren get their first boo-boos, or endure surgery, or endure disease, or endure stepping into the arms of Jesus. We never know, do we? One day to the next. We never know.

The mama heart never stops adding bandage after bandage. Peeling away the wrapperthat end of the sticky side, the other end of the sticky sideand placing it over the heart.

Because a mama hurts when her babies hurt.

Mama, this is your Shelli. Your Shelli Ann. Thank you for the bandages you've taken for me, taken for your grandchildren. Season after season. Thank you for your beautiful heart. Yes, that beautiful heart of yours, covered in layers of Band-Aidsbright pinks, greens ... princesses, tiaras, Eeyore, Mickey Mouse, hearts .... Thank you for the prayers you've prayed and the tears you've cried over me. For watching me walk out that door, for watching me take one step away from you, for watching me get cuts and scrapes and broken. You know all my secret broken places, all my secret injuries and scrapes. Thank you for all the times you've let me rest my head against your soft stack of Band-Aids and allowed me to cry my heart out. And thank you for all the times that you've placed the bandage over me and for adding one more bandage to your own ... 

To make a mother's heart ...

A mother's heart that is beautiful, bright, bold ... bandaged.





**

Do you have a Band-Aid story to tell? Maybe of your kids or animals. Or maybe a story of how you caused your mother to place a Band-Aid on her heart? I'd love to hear it.

And a dear friend's daughter survived a horrible car accident recently. We are praying for McKenna, who is 18. Her mama's heart is buried deep in bandages right now. Would you pray with us, too? 

Happy Mother's Day.





Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Counting Blessings in the Chaos


Aunt and uncle just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Aunt couldn't believe so many came to help celebrate. "I can," I said. Because they've been a stable factor in so many lives. So many lives. Has all been good? Definitely not. But all's been and all continues to be. Stable. Through-the-years-stable. Within-our-control stable.




But a friend's husband just ended his life. She'll never celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary. She's trying to find the balance to carry on. To bring and keep stability in her kids' lives. To be stable in the midst of chaos and loss. To find a new through-the-years-stable. A within-her-control stable.

And she's left with numerous questions. Did the way I loved him count? Did I count? Did our years and all the contents inside count? 

If we can't continue to count the years, what can we count?

What can we count when we feel like a waste of breath?

We can count our blessings.







We can count what's stable in our lives.

Like what?

Like life. Like the air we breathe in. While we have breath. Breathe it in. Breathe it out.




Like God, who is stable, able, capable--the one who will be there when we have breath and when we don't.

Like love, love that comes our way. Like the love we can deliver. Maybe not from the one we want or to the one we want. But love comes and goes. We're receivers, and we're deliverers.




Like smiles. We can give and take those. And don't discount the frowns. When a smile has drowned, we can embrace the opportunity to ask, "What's wrong? How may I help?" 




Like rest. A place to sit. We'll never run out of those. Even the ground bursts forth with life.




  


Like railings. A place to lean. With another. The railings are beautiful--family, friends, God, faith, arms, shoulders.






Like goodness. It's always there, even in the badness. Will we look for it? Will we find it? Will we focus our lens on it? Will we be the good?



Like growth. Are we different today than yesterday?





If we live our lives counting our blessings, what's stable in our lives, dependable factors, maybe we'll find that we are celebrating daily.

When we can't count the years, we can make our years count.

And we'll find we are counting the years, our years.

And maybe we'll have become a reason to celebrate. Because when we count our blessings, we become a blessing.

Is there any wonder?

"I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing."--Ezekiel 34:26


~~~

What blessings can you count?