Friday, January 31, 2014

Running hard after love



I've wanted to escape to this space for weeks now. To get lost in that suspended place of word and thought that swirls like so much wood smoke, evoking both memory and revery with each bend and jump. Here is where I come to figure out what really is ... to remind myself of the ground that holds me up and the sky that pulls at my chin. It is here that I remember how to breathe.

But I have been living the last two weeks at my parents' house and despite the fact that I have all but completely withdrawn from my regular life, the days have been fuller, stuffier, heavier than most. My mom is in the thick of chemotherapy treatments attempting, with all that science and positive energy can offer, to fight a disease that alters the makeup of her blood. Rather than work for her, her cells have declared anarchy. And she is tired.

We are all tired.

And although we may be chipped and cracked a bit, dizzy drunk from all that is working around and in and through us, we are not defeated. Nor have we lost hope. Never before have I been more in tune with the song of the Gospel that sings over me, every day. That although we walk a tenuous line between faith and fear and every step seeks to hand us over to death, life is rising in us, as well.

I witnessed this truth laced through every.single.day I spent at my parents' house.

I didn't always see it while I was a child in their house. I was too busy living wildly off of the fruits of their diligence and gracious caretaking then. It has only been since returning as an adult, in a strange juxtaposition of caregiver and care receiver, that my eyes have been opened. It is only now, when the days seemed numbered, that I see the ring of light that circles the dark.

+++++++

My parents do everything with care. My mom keeps a very tidy house and my dad keeps the whole machine running smoothly. Such has been their dance throughout 59 years of marriage and they still do it beautifully. The glorious thing about it all, however, is that it never was, nor ever is, at the expense of hospitality or graceful living. Neither of them has ever answered the door to surprise guests only to exclaim, "Forgive the messy house!" Instead, doors were thrown open, arms were outstretched and visitors were ushered in with squeals of delight.

My parents are curators of a welcome life.

You can imagine the difficulty, then, when illness enters the room and, despite a willing heart, the body can't always comply. The tenuous line is drawn and its diaphanous form etches itself across the floor, like a crack in plaster.

But, over and over, I watched my parents, my mother, especially, tilt towards life.

+++++++

I always thought that if I was ever faced with a severe illness that I would, of course, take up arms and run into battle. I would not go down with the ship. I would rise above, stand defiant, go out kicking and screaming.

After witnessing the horrors of chemotherapy, however, I'm not so sure. The idea of fighting death with destruction doesn't settle well in my deepest places. But neither does quietly walking away from a life that I love. I don't know how to keep company with those who sing songs for Jesus' speedy return in order to save us from this swirling orb of humanity.

I want to live.

I want to wake up every day and gaze upon those that I love. I want to plant zinnias every summer and smell wood smoke trailing from stone chimneys. I want to eat gooey butter cake and lift weights at the Y and take road trips to the Rocky Mountains and cook bacon on Saturdays. I want to laugh at silly jokes and hear, once again, the stories that make our family its own brand of crazy. I want to hold fast to the hands clinging hard to mine.

I don't want any of this to ever stop.

I'm learning that the way to embrace a death sentence while simultaneously allowing life to rise in me is to run hard after love. In all circumstances, by every means necessary, even when I screw things up or do the exact right thing--I need love to be what is standing between me and everyone else.

When love is what I choose to weave in among the fibers and snags of my every day life, when love gilds the edges of tired joy or stretches across the chasms of unspoken fears then that cloudy glass is rubbed a little cleaner. Love lived on purpose breathes life and one can catch glimpses of glory come down.

I saw it most keenly the night I lay in bed alongside my mom. She was three days into chemo and every one of her body systems was in revolt. In that darkened room I quietly held hands with my mom and hung lavishly in that place of holding and being held. Our bodies formed a circle and I longed harder than ever that it remain unbroken. And then she whispered her thanksgiving, for me and my boys and my just being there. Her words, her naming the gifts, breathed life into my weary soul. It was love that floated between our souls in that moment and it became clearer than ever.

This speaking love into each others' lives? It is life.



45 comments:

  1. Naming this kind of glory with drowsy adjectives would be a sin. So I will not try.


    I will only say thank you for this. You teach me how to see in so many ways, Holly.

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  2. So beautiful Holly. And so painfully true. All at the same time.
    Hugs to you and yours,
    Kelly

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  3. Oh.My.Heart. How you weave words of truth & life so beautifully, amazes me!! Prays and Hugs to you, Holly.

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  4. This is beautiful, Holly, and so true. Thinking of you and your mom.

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  5. Holly, this is achingly beautiful, a skin stretched to bursting with hope. Lovely.

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  6. With tears in my eyes I join you, Holly, in giving thanks for Life, for Love, for all things Family! My prayers go up for your precious mom.

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  7. So poignant, so true. (I loved this line "My parents are curators of a welcome life." I want to live in such a way that my children might say the same thing.) Thank you for such a powerful example of what it is to speak love into the lives of those around us, and especially those we hold so dear.

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  8. Oh Holly, how you share the truest and loveliest moments of this challenging time with us. You, your beautiful mama, and your words are such a gift.

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  9. Oh Holly, you made me cry.
    Thank you for sharing into this space, even though it's a hard space. There are so many lines and images from this that I want to hold close and think about.
    Love to you and your lovely family.

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  10. Holly this is bittersweet beauty. Such an exquisite telling, sweet friend. Oh my. Your words leave me weeping and aching to love better--to live better. Praying for you, for your mom and dad, for all the ways God asks you to walk through the fire. Love to you, friend.

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  11. Holly, oh Holly. I want to say how much your words sing to my soul, and yet I'm afraid I can't do it justice. This is beyond beautiful. You are grasping something that seems, to me, the very most essential thing to grasp in this life - and not without cost. Praying for you and your precious family. Thank you, thank you, thank you for breathing these words of life onto the screen here.

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  12. This is so beautiful. I remember my dad coming in to my room a few months before he passed away and sitting on the edge of my bed, patting my shoulders. Just like I was a little girl. And it was this. This thing you write about. Love floating between souls. Life. Thank you for sharing this, friend. It broke free so many memories.

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  13. This touches me in the deep place where tears flow, whether they spill out or not. Thanks for writing this, bearing witness, and most of all, for the very important work of being there with her.

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  14. Holly, your words are ourw light and life. My One Word this year is "Embrace" and you captured it. Praying peace over you and your mama.

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  15. Deb Anderson WeaverFebruary 1, 2014 at 5:56 PM

    This is beauty. Your parents are not the only curators of a welcome life . . .

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  16. Beautiful, beautiful. Such rich sighs. Thank you.

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  17. Yes. Speaking the love... is abundant life. Bless you.

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  18. Oh how you worship, dear Holly. I'm so with you on this: "I'm learning that the way to embrace a death sentence while simultaneously allowing life to rise in me is to run hard after love.," and "Love lived on purpose breathes life and one can catch glimpses of glory come down."

    God is showing me how dreams require today; how today is purposed and necessary. And so He asks me to courageously accept life, as it is (today). To embrace it and LIVE it, as it is, reflects my trust in Him and His ways; it's my worship. And it's yours.

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  19. This is such a gift - this window into your lives and your heart here. Thank you for this.

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  20. Ashley Tolins LarkinFebruary 4, 2014 at 3:39 PM

    I so agree with Kelli. I read this and am rendered speechless. You tap something so deep and mysterious and beautiful here, Holly, and I feel like after reading that, I stand on holy ground. This love between mama and her girl -- oh, friend.

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  21. Oh how we need each other, friend. How we need each others' eyes and hands and feet. And even more, how we need each others' hearts and souls and grace. Thank you for always offering me all of these. Always.

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  22. Beauty and pain, yes. This is our everyday. Thank you for being here.

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  23. Oh Ashley, that love? It is the hammock that holds me despite the rocking or the blowing of the wind. Grateful for your words here. Thank you.

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  24. Oh Annie, I always love when you visit here. I know you know that tenuous line because of your own losses this past year. It makes every day that much more dear, does it not?

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  25. Amy, I have decided that you are a prophetess, gifted to me from above, to speak life into my days. Thank you for the way your truth pierces through so clearly and gloriously. Thank you for always reminding me of the gift of every.single.moment.

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  26. Ah abundant life. The gift that comes from loving. Yes.

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  27. My sweet Diana, I can't help but think of your own relationship with your mother. I pray that, despite the barriers of dementia, your mother would hear all the ways in which you speak love into her life.

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  28. I love you. That is all.

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  29. Deb, I consider your words one of the greatest compliments of my life. Thank you.

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  30. Jessica,
    What a beautiful word to choose to guide your year. I love it. Thank you for the prayers, the peace, and your presence here.

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  31. Laura,
    I know you know this road and that the places wrung ragged in your heart are still tender. Thank you for encouraging me, despite the pricking of your own soft spots.

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  32. Oh Alia, I pray that I will never let loose of these moments that are so precious I can feel their power. Grateful that you had such a memory to hold onto. Thank you so very much for sharing.

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  33. Amber, thank you for recognizing the cost. I hadn't quite put my finger on what the source of my utter weariness was when I returned home but you've nailed it. We risk so much when we dare to love. I think, however, that at the end of it all? It will be worth every.single.second.

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  34. Kris, your words mean so much to me. And your prayers? I covet them. Thank you for extending grace upon grace to me, always.

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  35. Cara, it IS such a hard space but I am convinced it is exactly where I am supposed to be. Thank you for your generous words here. I pray that we can both continue to learn the ways of love in our every day lives.

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  36. Eyvonne, your friendship is a gift. Thank you.

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  37. Megan, I, too, pray that I might live into that same distinction--curator of a welcome life. Grateful for your words here.

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  38. Kathi, thank you for being here and for your prayers. They sustain me. They embolden me. Thank you.

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  39. "a skin stretched to bursting with hope"
    That, my friend, is gorgeous. Thank you.

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  40. Thank you, Lynne. I know you feel the weight and the poignancy of all of this. Grateful for your words here.

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  41. Thank you my dear Rebecca. I can feel your prayers. They are POWERFUL!!!

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  42. Beautiful, Holly. "I'm learning that the way to embrace a death sentence while simultaneously allowing life to rise in me is to run hard after love." Seeing good in each day and giving thanks despite hard realities is love. Praying for continued strength and comfort for you and your family on this difficult road. Emmanuel - God is with us.

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  43. My my my. Sometimes, that's all there is to say. It's what the women I used to think were old would say as they fanned themselves beneath their feathered hats in the pews near the front of the church. "My my my." Because the Spirit of God hung heavy in the room and we were all trying to breathe in...

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  44. Life thrives on sweet nutrients hidden in the soil. We find it making our trails next to roots and worms and each other. Thank you for tilling dirt here today. I can smell it and crave it for myself. What a feast you served my soul.

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