"Fine." The word we use to describe consistant, unmoved, and unaltered lives. We live in a world that teaches us to be "fine"...even when we're not...even when we are in pain so deep words cannot convey it.

I choose not to be "fine". I choose to be "okay".

Okay with the joy of life...even when it comes midst the pain, okay with emotions that can change in an instant, okay with the rollercoaster, okay with talking about it, okay with laughing and hurting at the same time, and okay with the reality that life can hurt like hell and be amazingly fabulous at the same time.

I'll take "okay" over "fine" any day...and I do every day.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In Summary...

It has been months since I've written on this blog. I have looked at it on my "dashboard" of my blogger control page a few times, but I have not known what to say. With the sweet comment Joy left, I felt I should update anyone who might find this blog or who might have followed it and wondered how things have evolved.

My mom, Gayle Kelley Lewis, went to be with Jesus October 2nd. I was with her when she transitioned from this world into her true home, where she was created to spend eternity. We were blessed with two months of her being in relatively good health before she became sick, went into an unconscious state 24 hours later, and passed on five days later. God was merciful beyond my wildest dreams, and I praise Him for His kindness to my mom and to us.

On November 1st, my uncle with whom I lived during college passed on. It was not unexpected, but it was a hard blow so soon after losing Mom. I remember little about November except I cried virtually everyday...but Thanksgiving was wonderful. I have to say that in the last six months November is the span where things felt truly dark and I felt lost. I ended up in Petite Jean State Park in Arkansas, really very much against my will, and God and I had a stand off. I raged and hurt and raged some more. I didn't hear big booming voices, couldn't point to an epiphany moment, but somehow in the midst of it all, I came home okay again.

My husband and I have been separated for six months. I have said little because we have not told the children, but Rob has decided to pursue a divorce next year. He is being very gracious concerning the finances so I will be able to stay home and home school until our children graduate high school, and our relationship remains amicable and focused on co-parenting the children.

The children have ups and downs. Anna has been amazing throughout the holidays. She has missed my mom horribly, but she has found great joy anyway. After Thanksgiving, she said, "Thanksgiving was wonderful, and I believe Christmas will be, too. I don't know what will happen next year, but I refuse to let it steal the good stuff from these holidays." If only ALL of us could live so wholly in the present...

As for me, the last two weeks of Christmas preparation has found me in tears again. I miss Mom horribly, and it is a different thing not having parents. I still love having the family here, but it was hard knowing that is even changing. My brother plans to take a trip next year. Rob is embarking on a life without me, and I don't know where the children will be. Christmas as I have known it for my whole life is no longer, and that has been very painful.

However, I have to say despite the pain--and trust me, I've hurt more deeply and wholly than I ever could have imagined--I am also hopeful and peaceful again. I still believe God is doing great things. I believe the children and I will flourish, and I am excited to see what the Lord does in 2011. It will be different, but I trust it will be the Canaan in contrast to Egypt kind of different, and it will be wonderful.

Please keep all of us in your prayers as we need them desperately. For those who have been praying for us, I truly cannot express the gratitude I hold in my heart for your love and kindness for my family and myself. We surely would have drown had we not been held up by others in prayer and deed. Thank you most sincerely for holding us before the Father.

I don't know if I will visit this blog again, but if you want to visit me some more, please come by my new blog and make yourself at home. Chat with me some and let me know how your heart and life are. You bless me greatly. If I can hold you up in prayer or with kind words, please feel free to share with me. I will gladly talk to Daddy and intercede on your behalf.

God bless and keep you.
May He gird you round about with His Presence and His passion.
May He be known by you more deeply daily,
...and when you are in the desert as we have been, may you always find the new way He is creating and be refreshed by the new springs He provides and the courage to believe His promises are still solid.

Most humbly His,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Yesterday Mom spent several hours sitting on my deck hunched over with tears slipping down her face. The facts of life...and death...seeping into her reality.

I stood at the window and watched, not knowing how to give comfort, afraid of my own tears.

What could I possibly say? "Mom, it's okay." No, it's not. Cancer is so far from okay. "Mom, it'll be alright." The headaches that remind her of the bomb ticking in her head never stop. How can that ever be alright?

But how could sitting alone in one's pain alright? And how can keeping a distance from someone hurting because of fear of one's own pain ever be okay?

A hard blink and a quick swipe of the hand. A shaky deep breath. "Oh, God, help me be what she needs right now. Help me be the love you have for her."

Her head lifted when I opened the door, and her red eyes followed me as I moved the other chair close to her and sat down.

"I love you, Mom."

She nodded, blinked, and leaned back in the chair. A deep breath.

"I love you, too, Sis."

"I don't know what to do, but I'm here."

She didn't look at me, only nodded.

"Here is good."

I leaned back in my chair, too.

Silence wrapped around us, held us tight...held us close. There was nothing to say, only somewhere to be.

Here is good.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Don't Want to Be Here...Except...I Do

Seven weeks ago Rob moved out.

Eighteen days ago I sat in a conference room and stared at images of my mother's lungs and brain spotted with cancer.

When Rob first moved out, one of the hardest things were the "kick in the stomach" moments. Those were the moments that left me mentally or emotionally doubled over in pain, trying to catch my breath, feeling like another blow would collapse my already shaky knees. Such moments included finding a loose engagement picture when I moved stuff in a closet, putting away a book Rob had been reading to us as a family, and grocery buying for three instead of four. The hits came from unexpected places at what felt like the most vulnerable times.

Many phone calls and emails at those moments helped me find my footing, catch my breath, and recapture my hope.  I learned to roll with those moments, to feel them, to accept them, to grieve them, and to let them go while looking forward and believing good would come. It took weeks, but I became good at taking what came at me while solidly standing on my feet...until yesterday.

Yesterday was spent seeking a solution to a seemingly hopeless situation.

The tumor in Mom's frontal lobe has left her paranoid, given to rage, and sometimes violent. Sunday there was an episode with my stepdad that required intervention by our hospice support and removal of my mom from her home. The only solution in the moment was to transport her to my home. However, there are concerns.

The simple fact is there are a lot of factors that are creating an unstable situation. Mom's meds, inability to regulate or filter her moods due to the tumor, her frustration, the deep grief she feels, and a lack of sleep work together to create a person who is wonderful when she's normal but possibly highly volatile when she is pushed even the slightest bit too far. Obviously, this is not going to work with my children in the home. Plus, she hates being here. She wants her own home, and she wants to be left alone. Due to her inability to think well all the time, this is not a viable option. Due to monetary issues, an assisted care facility or a full-time caregiver is not an option.

There are no good options.

Despite rolling things around and around in my mind and playing out different scenarios, I have no answer.

But that is not what slammed into me yesterday. All of that makes my brain tired, but it is only a puzzle with a solution I don't know yet. However, I will. My faith is strong. God has a solution. I haven't heard Him tell me what it is yet, but there is one.

All of that, while tiring, is okay. It'll work out.

That is not the kick in the stomach.

Last evening Rob brought the children over to spend time with Mom and be encouragers. I was looking forward to it since I have hardly seen them since Friday, and I miss them greatly. All was going well...so I thought, and we were getting ready for bed when Robert came to me.

"Mom, can we spend the night at Dad's?"


"We want to stay at Dad's."


"We just like being there more."

"Well, you can call him and ask."

Robert did. Rob said yes, and they were on their way out the door...again.

And I was left feeling like I had just gotten kicked in the stomach, feeling like I just watched my fragmented family shatter.

The door closed, and I breathed. Sometimes that is enough.

Anna and I had talked before they left. She wasn't picking parents. She was picking peace.

Being with my mom, watching her sadness, was too much for two hearts already figuring out ways to heal. I understood.

"I don't want to be here." My mom's slurred words hit me in the back of the head like a slap.

I listened as Rob's car pulled out of the driveway and drove away.

I don't want to be here either.

I would rather be listening to my children laugh as I tucked them in bed and gave them tickles and kisses than to hear them call, "I love you, Mom," over their shoulder as they got into their dad's care to leave again. I'd rather read the book I bought than try to finagle finances so Mom can have good care that keeps her safe while still respecting her desire to care for herself as long as possible. I'd rather...

I'd rather be courageous than cowardly. I'd rather do the right thing...even if I don't like the high cost that goes with it...than to do the easy thing.

The fact is my children are fine. They love being with their dad, and they love playing with friends. I am the one feeling detached. I am the one feeling alone. I am the one feeling the weight of the situations, of being the fulcrum from which the balancing act seems to extend. Being the fulcrum hurts, and the balancing act rubs in ways I don't like.

No, I don't like being here either, but neither does anyone else trying to find their balance in the midst of the situations that keep us feeling off balance. Someone has to be here, though, in the middle, seeking solutions, feeling the weight, finding the balance. That someone might as well be me, and, maybe my being here will make it better for the wonderful people I love. If it will, this is where I want to be.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Yet Another Change in Plans

I did not watch the sun come up this morning as I had expected.  Instead, I slept till 8:00 and was awoke by a text message from a friend when the phone buzzed on my bedside table...and not the one in my camper.

I expected to greet the day with a strange mixture of peace, melancholy, and joy. Instead, I met the day with a deep sigh and the question, "How did life get like this?" 

Last night's happenings don't cross my mind. Next week's do. Unless there is another major change in plans, my mom will come to live with the children and me next weekend.

A list of "to do's" longer than I care to consider resurfaces from last night. Instantly, more is added to it. Plans for next week are quickly factored into the situation. Social activities. Non-negotiable appointments. A writing deadline. Some things will simply have to go. I can't do everything. What is necessary? What is first?

Within seconds a plan is formed. The list is rearranged into an order based on priority and prerequisites. Time estimates are made. A list of resources, including people who can and will help, immediately comes to mind, and I start placing them where I need them and when. A different list of emails and appointment rescheduling is created in my mind, and I ponder the logic of resheduling right now at all. Some planned events are not easily categorized, and I weigh the cost/benefit ratio. They are slipped into "We'll see." A sublist of things that simply need to be nixed is made as well. I simply don't have time for them.

A deep breath. I know what has to be done and how to do it.

Less than two minutes have passed.

I blink at the ceiling and feel the cushion of the mattress under me. This time next week this won't be my room. My bed will be in storage, and my "new normal" will be eradicated yet again. I chuckle as I wonder how many new "new normals" we will go through before this rollercoaster slows to a halt...but then, I'll have bigger emotional concerns than moving back into my then empty bedroom.

Tears don't come this time. I hear a mental door slam. I don't have time to be emotional right now.

I have a job to do.

Six days to get it done.

And time is ticking.

I'll have to enjoy the luxury of my bed...and my emotions...later. Right now, a to do list awaits.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Amazing Moment

One of those moments that feels good even when it doesn't...and makes me smile even while I cry...

When I talked to my mom this morning, I told her she is amazing. She said she doesn't feel amazing. I told her that is okay, I think she's amazing anyway. She started to cry...and so did I.

In the Early Morning Hours

Some mornings start absurdly early, like this one. At 4:23 my wide-open eyes stared at the clock beside me. It's been a few weeks since I was up this early and couldn't go back to sleep.  Before, it wasn't a big deal. I would prop myself up in bed, read through emails, journal some, and pray. When I got tired later in the afternoon, I would take a nap. Today, however, that is not an option. Today we are going camping with my mom and dad, most likely for the last time.

Even as I write that, I cannot really process it.

Last week I walked by our pop-up camper and suddenly found myself leaning against it with hot tears running down my face.

We bought the camper for our family to take trips together. Now our family...isn't.  A few years ago my parents bought their camper so they could join us on our trips. We've loved it. Now my mom's health is fading quickly, and my stepdad isn't able to do the preparations and make the trips alone.

And my tears fall. 

Yesterday when my mom called to ask us to camp this weekend, I bravely agreed, made the plans, packed the necessary things...and all the while wiped fat tears from my face. The "last times" are so hard...and so precious.

Camping in mid-August in Texas has got to be one of the craziest things anyone would do. The temps are in the triple-digits. Our pop up isn't made to stay cool in this weather, and there isn't much to do besides melt. My practical side is about to have a hissy fit.

But I am more than practical.

I am a mom whose daughter needs as many precious moments of Grandma as she can hold.

I am a story teller who needs the pictures, the whole story, and the opportunity to tell it...the adventure of living it.

I am a daughter who hates seeing her mom this way...but hates the future of not being able to see her mom...so I capture the moments...the laughs on the phone, the conversations in the hospital room, the insanely timed camping trips whose time is coming to a close. And I hold those treasures in my camera...in my mind...in my heart...and I know no amount of tears, no matter how big or how hot will wash them away.

And even though my vision is blurred, my purpose is not.

So I pack swimsuits, shorts, an extra fan, boxes of kleenex. I take a deep breath and do not think of what we will be leaving behind when we pack up our family trip...for the last time. Instead, I focus on what we will take home.

And I pray.

I pray for us to say what needs to be said, to hug as long as we need to hug, to laugh even when we cry. I pray we do not put on plastic faces that pretend all is well when it isn't, but I pray we do not miss the joy and laughter just because life isn't what we want it to be.

Oh, God, gives us the wisdom and strength to be okay with the glory of life when it is so easy to lose its joy in the shadow of death. When I look back, I don't want to think about this weekend as the last hoorah, as trying to salvage moments and memories. I want it to be a weekend where we lived and loved intentionally, knowing you could do something miraculous and there might be other weekends, but if not, it's okay. I want us to have this weekend because this is how we choose to live, not because we are afraid to die.

And, God, help me be brave. Help me to engage emotionally, even when emotions feel like the enemy because right now, my heart hurts more than words can say. Help me not to miss the love and the joy because I'm afraid of the pain. Right now, I don't know how I am going to do this, but I guess we'll do this like everyting else, won't we? One moment at a time.