Wednesday, May 26, 2010

She Always Loved Pink

She always loved pink. It was her favorite color. I still remember a pink t-shirt she used to wear with kittens on it and pussy willows. It's silly, isn't it? The things one remembers 19 years after their mother dies. I remember her hands and how the tips were yellowed from smoking and how her nails were always chewed down. A nervous habit, perhaps? I remember her hair and how even though she was only 38 years old it was thinning.

Then there are the things I don't remember. I don't remember her laugh. I don't remember her telling me she was proud of me or what a wonderful kid I was. I don't remember feeling loved all those times she walked away- the need for a fix greater than the needs of her daughter. I don't remember her apologizing for the every school event, parent teacher conference, or big moment in my life that she missed.

19 years later as a grown woman, I still miss having a mommy. And it hits me at the oddest moments. I'm fine. Going about my daily routine and then it hits me. It can be seeing a mother and daughter checking out together at JoAnn Fabrics sharing a coupon or watching a show on tv where a mother and daughter "have a moment" and I'm back there. I'm ten again and she is gone and the ache in my heart that should have healed after 19 years aches again. It can be something like getting a promotion or a new job or as deep and important as shopping for a wedding dress when I am reminded, or rather, slapped in the face, by the fact that I don't have a mom.

I realized something the other day and it may seem odd. But bare with me for a moment. Growing up, for as long as I can remember, I just wanted to be loved. I wanted to live in a fairy tale and be swept off my feet. I wanted to fall in love and leave town and be someone new. New life, new love, new heart. But that wasn't what happened. I was never "that girl". You know the one I am talking about- the beauty who wins the prince. The head cheerleader who dates the captain of the football team. There was no prince charming to take me to the prom or ask me out. No sweet high school love moments. There was no winning over any boys, really. I was broken. Emotionally high maintenance and if there is something that guys can sense, it's that. And they stayed away.

Every now and then I'll be watching a chick flick or an episode of glee and I feel a twinge in my heart. Like there is part of me that is still 16 and still longing for that swept off your feet moment. It's funny because I fell in love. I got married. I love my husband and I am grateful for him every day. But do you know what it comes down to? He's not enough. I don't mean that to sound harsh. It is the truth. But the truth is also this- a swept away moment isn't what I'm truly longing for. The root of that twinge in my heart is the hole where a fathers love should have filled. It's the place where a Dad pours love and truth and confidence into his daughter. It's the place where a Dad teaches a daughter to throw a ball and the rules of a football game and it's the place where when her car breaks down He comes to help her and to teach her how to change a tire. It's a place that was never filled for me.

Here is also the truth, while Ryan will never be enough, and he shouldn't be, God is enough. My Heavenly Father, who formed me in His image is enough. And while I still don't know how to change a tire and I'm not very good at sports, He loves me just the same. And He is also the only one who can heal these wounded parts of me. I remember the night I met Him. I sat on the rocks in the Adirondacks and I sobbed. I was so mad and hurt. All of my emotional baggage pouring out before me. And He met me. It didn't scare Him away. The God of the universe met me and He wrapped His arms of love around me. And right then and there He gave me a new heart. I was a new creation. My longing was met then. There is still work to be done in my heart. There are still the aches that I need to continue to lay down before Him and ask Him to heal. But I am grateful that in the midst of the aches He is still God. In the midst of the hurt He knows my heart better than I ever will. And He is the only one who can handle all of my emotional baggage! God's love is the greatest love story I will ever know and I am humbled that I have a role in His story.

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this- while we were still sinners Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

She Always Loved Pink

I used to sit on her lap
Arms of love embraced me,
The miniature version of herself
Arms of addiction, black and blue
Her gray blue eyes never reflected light
Her nails were bit down
tiny nubs
of hard skin
Where there should have been nails painted pink
She loved pink
light, soft, pure pink
I buried my face into her sweater
Inhaling scents that I didn't know then
would still bring me back there
Stale cigarette smoke- marlboro's
A light spray of Jovan's white musk
Scents that aren't as strong now
Lightly fading away as her lap became numb
The black and blue now just blackness

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rhubarb Crisp & Fears

I made rhubarb crisp tonight. Well, truth be told, I am still making it. It's in the oven as I type. And I am so looking forward to eating some tonight. I wish I could say it is the perfect night for rhubarb crisp, but it isn't. It hit the high 80's today and it's still hot in our house. We have two fans going and it's still warm and sticky.

And, despite that, I still decided to turn on the oven to 350 degrees and bake. In fact, I decided to bake even though I really don't feel well. I've had a sinus headache all day and a sore throat that started last night. And despite the fact that my body is telling me to stop, my brain keeps telling me to keep going. Keep moving. Keep being busy, because the moment I stop is the moment the thoughts and the fears settle.

My friend, Kristie, who is battling breast cancer that has metastasized in her hip emailed out an update this morning. After a weekend of experiencing blurred vision and several headaches she is going for an MRI tomorrow on her brain. Apparently, breast cancer can metastasize in your brain and they have not yet checked for lesions there.

Let that sink in. I sat at my computer this morning at work and I waited. I don't know what I was exactly waiting for. I think I was waiting for an emotion. Or to just start sobbing uncontrollably. But nothing happened and within two minutes I knew I had to keep going. I had to compartmentalize and work through today. Then, tonight, tonight I could fall apart. The problem is, I'm not ready to process this information. I'm not quite ready to "go there" and so in the midst of an 80 degree day when every fan in our house is on, I decided to bake rhubarb crisp.

I focused on each ingredient. I sliced the stringy rhubarb and smelled the freshness of each stalk that Ryan had just cut from our yard. I felt the brown sugar, rolled oats, cinnamon and melted butter crumbled beneath my finger tips. I smelled the sweet sugar and vanilla cook together on the stove top, creating even more heat than the oven set at 350 degrees. And I stood in my kitchen sweating. And avoiding.

Ryan asked me if I thought about how Emilie and Daniel were doing. Of course I had. The question should have been, "Have you stopped thinking for one second about the Rushes?" And without having to explain my irrational behavior he simply said, "Am I bringing up something you are trying to escape?" And with that, my sweet husband went to play video games.

It's not that I won't process. It's not that I have to avoid. The truth of the matter is that God is bigger than this. God's word tells me to cast all my anxiety on Him because He cares for me. And my fears don't compare to my God. So, tonight I will spend some time with the Lord. I will lay it down at His feet- every fear, every question, every tear, and I will offer it to Him as an act of obedient worship to the Only One who can handle all of it. And through heavy sobs, I am sure, I will offer up to the Lord, some honest and faith filled prayers for my dear friends. And then, I will eat some of my irrationally made rhubarb crisp and I'm sure I will be exhausted.

21Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. 1 John 3:21-24

Saturday, May 15, 2010

One Sentence Can Change Everything

"Danielle, it's not good news." Breathe. Breathe. No, for real, BREATHE. I don't remember what I even said. I remember she said, "I've got to go. I'm trying to make some doctor's appointments. I'll call you later, sweetie." And we hung up. And then I started sobbing. Uncontrollably. I sat in a small yellow chair, holding my phone, and I sobbed. Like a little girl. And I hadn't cried like that in a long time.

It was a beautiful sunny Thursday morning and I had a 9:30 am chiropractor appointment. I got there and went right in and sat in that small yellow chair waiting for Dr. Tammy, my chiropractor. I am almost always happy on days when I see Dr. Tammy. For one, I know that any pain or discomfort will get better but also, she is a ray of sunshine and I just love her. So, on the car ride to the appointment I blasted the Glee Soundtrack and I sang my heart out. And I thought, "I really like today." It's funny how one sentence can change everything. Everything. One small sentence can change life as you know it and the future as you've planned it.

I've known Kristie for eleven years. I first met her when I was a senior in high school and heavily involved in Young Life in my town. Kristie and her husband Chad came on as volunteer Young Life leaders half way through that year along with their best friends, Laura and John. And from the moment they stepped into that role, I, along with pretty much every other Young Lifer in Webster loved them. They were young, cool, fun and they kept showing up, which, as a high schooler, means the world. Although I met Kristie when I was 18 and I got to know her a little bit when I transferred from Niagara University to Monroe Community College my Sophomore year in college it wasn't until her and Chad moved to Buffalo in 2005 that I would really get to know her and she would become an integral part of my life.

In 2005 I was working for Young Life in Hamburg and Kristie, Chad and their two little ones moved to Orchard Park. Let me give you a snippet of Kristie, my mentor. We talked on the phone once to connect when she found out I was in Buffalo and she'd actually know someone in the area when she moved. The second conversation we had she asked me on a scale of 1-10 how content I was with my life. When I answered somewhere around a 5 she asked a bunch of questions and then suggested I go to counseling. It must have been the Lord because that seemed like a good idea and I went. As I went, I dealt with issues that had always just been a part of my life and myself that I thought I'd always be stuck with. But, I worked through them. And after months of counseling, I experienced a beautiful thing- freedom. Freedom and growth and forgiveness. Simultaneously I was seeing Kristie at least once a week to talk and spend time together and do a Bible study. We called it discipleship. It was hard. She always asked the right question, and the right question was usually the hard question. She challenged me and pushed me and when I needed it she encouraged me. And always, always we laughed.

That was the start of a five year friendship that has changed my life. I became a part of their family. I lived in their basement (I was known, and still am known as the cellar dweller). I babysat Emilie and Daniel and have watched them grow up. I ate family dinners with them, watched tv with them, shared my life (even the messiest parts) and still found love with them. It's as if during those two and a half years that I dwelled in the cellar I was still growing emotionally and my character was still developing, because I can see how I've been shaped from that time and how a caring, consistent, loving, but firm force helped develop me into the woman that I am.

So, take that depth of relationship, all the love that is rooted in me, that has grown and been strengthened even in the storms of life that raged between friends and you can imagine how one sentence can make you feel like your ship is sinking and you are gasping for air without a life preserver in sight. Splashing and kicking all while trying to process the situation that is, in all honesty, just too big to bare.

It was in that moment that Dr. Tammy walked through the door, flashed me her beautiful smile, and then realized I was crying. When she asked me what was wrong, I had to catch my breath and push out the words, "My friend has cancer." And as they came out my throat was hot and my eyes felt heavy and I think they were sharp because it felt as if they cut my throat as they tumbled out.

Kristie has cancer. My dear friend and mentor, whom I love with all of my heart has cancer. And I can't fix her. The last time I lost someone I was 14 years old and my childhood best friend was murdered. Her body was found in the woods, so decomposed that they had to identify her through her dental records. I still remember my grandma saying, "Kelley's dead. She is dead, Danielle." And that sentence changed everything. It was then, at 14 that I told God that either He didn't exist or He wasn't loving and I wanted nothing to do with Him. By the time I was 14 I had lost my grandfather, my mom, and then my childhood best friend. I was done with loss. It hurt too much to keep giving of myself and letting love in and then having to let go. Do you know what it's like to miss someone? To miss someone and know you will never see them again? I know that feeling all to well. And I was done.

The great thing about God is that even though I denied His existence, He didn't deny mine and even though I denied He existed, it didn't change the fact that He did and does exist and that He is loving. So, at 29 one sentence could change everything, again. And while it has changed some things, it hasn't changed the fact that I know God to be real, to be loving and to be good. And while the only prerequisite for rejection and abandonment is to put yourself out there and love it isn't going to stop me now. The joy of loving and being loved far outweighs the pain of loss. Life is about relationships and the better quality of relationships the better quality of life.

So, I am learning to continue to love Kristie, even though there are days when it seems so scary. I will be there for her, because I simply love her and love doesn't abandon even when it seems like a "safe" option. Love is not selfish and jumping ship in the midst of a storm leaving people you love is just a really selfish act. I have to confess something- five years ago I would have jumped ship. But I'm not the same girl I was five years ago- thanks to God and thanks to Him putting a strong spiritual mentor in my life. She's helped to shape me and she has reminded me time and time again that she is not leaving me (until the good Lord calls her home). And if she's not leaving, I'm not leaving.

Cancer sucks. It just plain does, and although that is not eloquent or pretty it is true. This is a road I haven't walked before and I am scared. Each day brings new thoughts and I have to continually surrender to the Lord what is in my head and heart. God is good. He is my rock and with Him all things are possible. Yes, one sentence can change every earthly thing, perhaps, but there is One it can't touch. God is the same yesterday, today and forever and that means that He is ALWAYS loving and ALWAYS good. Take that cancer.