Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What does caring look like?

Often, blogging is more journaling, and a way for me to clear out the cobwebs and see what I think, what I feel. It is me being as transparent as I can be right here with you. Do you feel that too? That sometimes your best expressed and seen thoughts are those you discover as you see them appearing on the page? As much as I have written about marriage and this transition, the surprising gift of this man, and this odd wonder of marriage, that is surely not all I have been thinking about.  

Tomorrow begins Breast Cancer Awareness month. I’m aware. I’m too aware. I have so many friends who have had biopsies, scares, surgeries, radiation, chemo, etc. How can we live in America in this day and age and not know about breast cancer? Or is awareness acknowledging that people younger than we’d like to think are diagnosed with breast cancer? That men get it too? That despite knowing so many who have been affected I do not perform the easiest, cheapest test monthly as recommended? That self-detection finds 40% (depending on the stats you read and how it is worded but basically, a lot!) of cancerous lumps.

I have struggled with how much to talk about this here because well, it deals with a friend. The friend may read this post (or subsequent ones). Other friends who are friends of this friend may read the post. I don’t want to turn it into something about me. But I guess there is part of it that is about me, and I do need to think about it and talk about it. I know this is probably not the last post so let’s just let it linger here so in months and years we can look back on the goodness of God and thank Him for what we’ve been given and how He’s drawn us near.

I’ve written about it before. She writes in a lot more detail and more often; keep up with her here.  I pray for medical miracles and God’s healing hand, but mostly I pray for His glory to be known in and through her. She certainly is a light. 

I’ve read the many texts/emails and listened to what she said, and what she alluded to. I’ve read websites and papers. I know the deal she’s been given. But what I (nor any of us, really) do not know is how long she gets to play this hand. In a couple of conversations with other friends, I remarked that I know the treatments and the prognosis, but that she could very well outlive me. You know, I hope she does. None of us know how or when our time here will be through. In some ways she is compelled right now to make the most of life. We say this all the time and live by those quotes, and yet we find ourselves bowing to to-do lists, shoulds, and regrets. Her time to live and do and be is now.

If I don’t get 50 more years of time with her, I want to give the most love, care, and attention I possibly can. It feels pressing and urgent. Shouldn’t we always love others this way? Fully, extravagantly? My struggle is how to support and care for someone in ways that are soothing and loving to her. Practical and tangible needs exist, and I can meet some of those. Others are meeting some of those too, which is really great, but I feel like I need to be/do more. A listening ear is needed, and I am grateful we continue to meet for meals and other little excursions and activities. I am so grateful we work at the same university and can meet for a planned or spontaneous lunch. Sometimes you just need to get away from your desk and have lunch with your friend. I have ideas of big actions and plans to email and do some household task for her, but I have not put a lot into action. Life gets busy and hectic and excuses, excuses. I feel like I'm just wasting time and don’t know how to love and do stuff for and with her. When we talk, I don’t want to focus on the big C. She is more than her diagnosis. In fact, some conversations don’t include much about appointments, pain, treatments, etc. A lot do. It’s a hard balance to hold.

Timely for my struggles--a book to release tomorrow Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking through Suffering Together. Ordering a pre-release means it should be at my door tomorrow too, which is great since I really want to read it and not great since some of it may be hard to read and I also don’t want to have to be reading it. The book is by Kara Tippetts (published posthumously), who you probably heard of months ago in her courageous battle, and her friend, who came alongside. Maybe my urge to order this book, write this post, etc is to have someone say, “Here is how you care for someone who is suffering.” I know that is not really how caring works. It's not a prescription or checklist. But I do need steering. Have you walked with someone down a hard road? Or have you had your own hard road? Do you have suggestions of what has felt kind and caring? What has made you or your friend/partner/etc feel seen, known, and loved? Do you have recommendations of what not to do or say? (These are actual questions. I really do want to know. Feel free to send me a private message, if you would prefer.)

Perhaps we get a new glimpse of what it means to be human when we walk with others in their struggles and when we practice humanity. God, give me the strength to practice.

Monday, September 14, 2015


Do you remember me telling you about my brother's youngest boy? He is such a sweetheart. But he often is very matter-of-fact, if he says much, and he does not throw words around. He has been working with his therapists and parents on elaborating a little. 

He is in Kindergarten this year and learning a lot! My brother called tonight to tell me about his little project for the week. The kids have to make a little poster of pictures and words to share about their summer, and I think are going to talk about them show-and-tell style. Because he will need to tell his class about the pictures they pasted or drew and what he included, my brother talked through them with him, not unlike most other parents would. 

The littlest guy identified what he was doing in pictures from the lake and beach, t-ball, and others. When he got to one of my side of the family from our wedding, my brother asked, "What are you going to say about this picture?" Littlest guy said, "I went to Aunt Andrea's wedding. She got married and looked like a princess." 

OH MY WORD. MELT YOUR HEART. Hashtag mademyday. 

He couldn't be in the wedding, but he helped my uncle pass out umbrellas to those coming into the chapel without. Apparently many of our guests traveled without umbrellas. Here he is walking out to walk some guests in with an umbrella. So freaking cute. 

The fact that he elaborated is big for him, and him saying I looked like a princess is so undeniably sweet. At several points of the engagement, I realized I did not and would not look like I'd always hoped to look for my wedding. I also realized I didn't have the time or energy to do much about it with work, school, and trying to get married in a semi-short timeframe. But I also knew why I was celebrating that day, and it was a lot more about marrying that man at the end of the aisle than how I looked in all my photos. Still, every girl (well, most) want to look like a princess, and it's easy to disregard to words of adults who know just what to say to boost an ego. It's much harder to dismiss the words of a young thing who is still feeling out words and meanings. 

Now excuse me, this princess has to go get her beauty rest. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Terror does not win

Today we went to the Flight 93 Memorial a few miles from my new in laws'. It seemed appropriate to visit the memorial with all the remembering our country has been doing the past few days.

Rain had quit pouring from the sky, but the sky was still gray and quiet. The open field is surrounded by hills speckled with thirty kinds of wildflowers. Each crew and passenger's name was etched into a long marble wall, and people had left flowers, coins, trinkets, and notes. I paused at each name, which seems the least I could do.

As we walked back, I noticed a number of families with kids, and I thought to myself how fortunate these kids are. How fortunate to have parents who deem it important to spend a Saturday afternoon visiting a memorial and remembering lives lost. How fortunate to learn of the flight's crew and passengers, who rallied together to fight back in the face of danger and terrorism. How fortunate to be reminded that terrorism may take lives, but it did not take the meek. It took the courageous and the brave.

I, too, had a fortunate childhood. I spent vacations visiting memorials and landmarks commemorating those who fought for freedom and lost lives through tragic events. I have been taken to do many. Visits to DC were so centered around this, after countless visits, I still went to a lot of the tourist spots and museums only a couple of years ago. I spent life being reminded to be thankful for life, freedom, and all the stuff we tend to take for granted.

To those kids' parents and to mine and to teachers: you do important work helping us learn and remember. To those who rush in when many others rush out, you show bravery and courage and are an inspiration. To those who fought back in the face of danger, you are heroes.

We create these memorials to remember lives and events. We create them to remember how fortunate we are to be here. We create and visit them to remember how the courage and bravery exhibited lives on, and terrorism kills, but it does not win.

(Pictures are off a lovely covered bridge on our way back, and part of the large field at the memorial. I did not want to take a picture of the crash site, though it is just marked with a boulder and flowers.)