His face is etched into mine. As a child I studied that face as he shaved in his boxer shorts standing at the mirror over the sink, his face white with shaving cream, his eyes occasionally glancing over at me with amusement. I was captivated because he was my hero. He traveled a lot and home without him was not a good place for me, so when he was there I tagged after him like a puppy nipping at his heels. I never wanted him to leave and yet much of what I remember is him leaving with a suitcase in his hand, his suit and tie neatly packed, his blue eyes smiling and his black hair shining. I always wanted to go with him and when he would firmly tell me no and kiss my mom goodbye I remember running outside and watching the black Chevy drive away and then hiding in the Russian Olive tree trying not to cry. He was my touchstone, my protector and without him I felt adrift and frightened. This feeling lingered for many years until finally I found that some other boys could be equally as fascinating and he didn’t seem to mind the loss of interest on my part. We sometimes still went fishing together on the river or to a party on the 4th of July with my brother and my mom and I don’t remember much alone time with him, but he was often who I called when I was brokenhearted or afraid. He would listen to me and encourage me and let me know that everything would eventually be okay and I believed him and eventually it usually was. He rescued me many times from precarious places and some really bad choices and he let me learn some really tough love lessons too. As we both aged, I began to see him in a more realistic light and he became a friend. I started to worry about him more and want to take care of him and he would do things behind my back (like tell me he wasn’t driving when he was) or that he was fine when he was clearly struggling. We began a slow role reversal and I began the incredibly painful journey of learning how to hold loosely the love I have for the best person I have ever known. This picture was taken this past Christmas. I am 63 and he is 92. He is my Familia, the place I know and am known.
I went to a memorial this weekend for a dear friend of mine (of 35 years) and the church was packed and the photo’s of Greg when he was young and when he was a Navy fighter pilot (think Top Gun) brought gut wrenching tears to his family and all of us overwhelmed with the sorrow of our loss, but the hope is in his soaring out of pain with the maker of his life. He loved Jesus and they are together now. I also had the one year anniversary of one of my lifelong and beloved friends, who passed unexpectedly a few days after we spoke. I sobbed at her memorial, sobbed and rocked and rolled with that loss. (Still can’t wrap myself around her absence.) This morning I read of a writer friend who lost her husband last week in a plane crash. I turned on the news to children clinging to one another in the aftermath of bombing their homes. I hear about the orphans, the women who are being raped as they walk the nine miles to get dirty water in Africa…I am numb and I am sorrow. Sorrow seems planted in the good rich soil of this planet and for many of us our hearts. The latest school killing spree, the systematic dismantling of the environment and it’s splendor. I could go on and on and on. But I won’t. I lost a dear friend last year because of this blog, because I spoke my truth of pain and he felt I was too depressing and not a good witness for Jesus. That the world didn’t need to hear of my sorrow, they needed to hear of my hope. I also had another friend distance herself from me because “she felt tension between my husband and I” she said she has to have only positive vibes around her and she hopes I will be able to do that with her. My thoughts are good vibes and bad vibes do a dance and to deny one doesn’t ensure mental health (at least not for me.)
I am a woman who speaks truth and for me there is sorrow and there is hope. I cannot pretend that life is easy or happy or perfect when it clearly is unraveling in so many ways. I also know without a doubt that in spite of all of that, in spite of down days and feeling hopeless at times, the Lord lifts me up. I am a David in the Psalms, speaking, lamenting, crying and then reminding “BUT GOD.” I try always to remember kindness towards others. I work harder than anyone I know to not neglect the gift of Christ loving me and therefor passing on that love. There is mercy in the house and he is the reason for it. But part of that mercy is the very reason I believe that he loves me. I will never be able to NOT be me. Eeyore and Tigger all rolled up in one. The sun is rising and it is glorious, but with that sun is a bitter cold wind. It’s the reality for today. So for today I will embrace the truth of it. Bundle up with sweaters and mittens and remember that spring is coming. To deny the cold is foolish, even if I have my face upward towards the light. They co-exist in nature.
It’s coming on a birthday. A blessed, birthday for one who was “not expected to live past the age of 24.” A birthday that reminds me of grace in my face. Lines. So many lines I cringe in the morning light as I am viewing the face up close and personal. It’s in glaringly clear glass, without steam or a dimmer switch. Where did the time go and why am I not all that I want to be?
I am trying to bend, to lean into the hope of another day in this amazing place called planet earth, with the life that I have been given, this gift of a life (when so many died young.) I am trying to ignore the signs and symptoms that have nested in my marrow for over 40 years. Can it truly be that I have survived myself?
I see the messages given to women that they must be without wrinkle and all that “plumped juicy skin” is their value. The mysterious womb, their uterus, by which they bear the fruit of life and family being their purpose. As of today I have none of those gifts or qualities. I am lined and I am childless. I am breathing in the hope waiting for the one thing that has left me unfulfilled and full of sorrow. To know my purpose and meaning beyond my looks, my marriage, my day-to-day existence of growing older. Can this really be all that is left? Is there anything I can do?
I am too long in the tooth to ever hope for a child. We tried (my husband and I) to adopt. We tried to foster, we tried to accept and we tried to forget and today all hope for that is gone. Unyielding truth that it is, I tried. Now I am watching my friends cuddle and read to their grand babies and be cared for sometimes by their children. I have none of that. There was never that, and that has brought me to my knees. A body that has lived but has betrayed me with my desires for a family of my own.
I am obviously in the crushing month of February. Where multiple people passed away, dancing around my birthday with their eternal goodbye. A mother, a best friend, a Grandmother, followed in quick succession in March by a brother, another dear friend and record producer and too many others. You see I have known over 20 people who have passed away. It sobers you, makes you clear-eyed and depending on the day either grateful or despondent. I have also lost 8 dogs (which seriously feels worse much of the time.) I have survived many of the same illnesses that killed some of these loved ones. Cancer being the common enemy. I see the marks of those battles on my body and my face. Once a beauty, I am a now a weary survivor. I am setting all of this up to tell you that I suffer, but life (if you are fortunate enough to live it) is to be used. God gave me every day so that I can pour out my energies for his purpose. His purpose is love and love wins. Some days it is his purpose for me to see his beauty. To draw nearer to him, for us to see him in the forest light (or the stars, or the ocean at dawn)
Some days Gods purpose is for us to be his hands and feet
Some days Gods purpose for us is to learn to love ourselves. With our lines and our sags and our scars. To be able to see ourselves through Gods eyes and not the worlds magnifying glass.
God has a purpose for you and for me. It’s the day…today…to celebrate whatever has come. No matter the losses, the scars, the battle wounds and the shattered dreams. A new day is here. A new beginning. A hopeful thing. It’s life on life’s terms. God and his magnificent love and all the mysteries of God that take our breath away, that’s our hope.
So hope in the midst of birthdays and old age and lost dreams and painful reminders of what can never come….is GOD. What to do on this day of reckoning? When pain is heavy and years are few? To celebrate our breath and our lines and our scars. The lost dreams and the reality. THIS IS YOUR LIFE and GOD is GOOD. Take a singular step into your day with new eyes. Gratitude, thankfulness, hope. Clear eyed hope in love. Oh and go celebrate your life, now, today before another day slips away!
I wander in my dreams
About God and his moon
Taking us on a ride of humility
we are small all of us
The moon knows the lovers
around the world kissing
the tips of the lips
a camel kiss.
I don’t know what happened but suddenly I was old. Something clicked off I imagine and the dark circles came and my hair got thinner and silver and my face wrinkled like a prune….seriously…like a prune. I got a sad look from the bone density tech and my weight dropped off. I became brittle literally over night. My eyes are red most of the time with an eye disease my mother had when she was old. Only I am not really old in years yet.(or maybe denial is not a river in Eygypt). I just feel like I have been swimming in chlorine for hours. My ears ring and hiss and roar. My joints pop and crackle (sheesh I sound like a symphony) When I was young and healthy my body was quiet. As in no noise. Now everything sounds either muffled or really loud. What? My Dad turned 90 this summer. He is vibrant and active and healthy. When I was driving and was seeing halo’s and stars around the lights coming at me I asked him if he saw those things too (he said No he just saw the lights) Great..I’m older than my dad. I was seriously worried about that until I removed my glasses and found that without my glasses I didn’t see the halo’s or the stars either. (Scratched lenses) Hahaha!
I also have hair that grows in the strangest places and hair that is falling into shower drains and on black sweaters and jackets at an alarming rate. My goodness what happened to the long-haired girl with the big hazel eyes and the toned muscles and the smooth skin? Where the heck did she go? I miss her. She was a beauty by some people’s estimation. A face for Hertz, a body for Club Med. There were travel brochures with her big eyes looking over her tanned shoulder holding a tennis racket. Now I look in the mirror and I see my mother. Some days I see a really old person, who’s sick and hurting with pain. It’s not easy. Truth be told I am NOT liking this. Not at all Not one bit.
I was reminded today by my therapist (yes I have a therapist) that my legacy will be something much greater than my looks. That if I get to live 20 more years (that would be some feat as I was sent home to die at 24) and I continue to do the work of funding the water wells (we are on our 19th) that for every child who lived and went on to have children, my legacy, my divine purpose will be revealed in heaven when thousands of people come to me to tell me they had life because I lived. I realized that as long as I have purpose I have a reason to live. The orphans and their suffering has been my purpose. That purpose has carried me through years where I gasped for breath with the pain of living. That purpose has reminded me when I saw no hope, that those precious people for whom I give my heart and life are in worse conditions than I am, suffering. Knowing that has prompted me to rise from my sick-bed and fight. For them and for me I fought back from a pesticide poisoning that caused my stomach to shred like I had swallowed glass. Bent over for months I pushed myself to get up, go to a chair, say a prayer, dream a dream, try to eat whole foods again (everything I ate was pureed like baby food). Those orphans, with their big eyes and their protruding stomachs and their skin and bones needed me. I could help them. It pushed me to live again. I fought back from cancer (twice) and I continued to write about those orphans. I wanted the world to remember them, even as they seemed to forget me. Those orphans reminded me of their courage and their laughter in the face of extreme poverty and sickness. I took great strength from their stories. I took great courage from their ability to be thankful with so little when I truly had been given so much. Through no fault of their own they were born in Africa, not America. Through no cause of my own I was born in the land of plenty. To NOT help them is unthinkable to me.
So yes, I am older. I am weaker, skinnier, wrinkling and by American standards of youth and beauty declining. But I am reminded that as long as I have breath I have purpose. I have God in me, I have a few dear ones who support me and my cause, I will carry that purpose to my grave and one day perhaps in heaven a man will come and hug me because the water saved him as a baby and he went on to a long life, fulfilling his purpose to help his people live. It’s a beautiful gift purpose. It changes the world It carries you home.
Wish to help? http://www.drlynnandtheorphans.com/index.html
“I am a stranger and a temporary resident on the earth”
“My heart is breaking with longing”
“With my whole heart have I sought you”
“I will meditate (think on these things)”
“Make me go in the path of your words, for in them is delight”
All of these came from Psalms 119
It’s been a year of incredible and unbelievable happenings and changes. I watched many of the things I hold sacred (The environment, kindness, morality of respect and love) go flying away, as if a Tsunami came and in it’s place (Often in the name of God) came uprising in our hearts such as I have never seen. I once read “I’m not worried I am just very alert.” I wish in my peaceful revolution within me that I can take my regard for all that is happening and lay it down somewhere and bury it until the next wave comes and washes it away. I wish I could say that in my prayers I was able in my heart to pray for this President in a manner worthy of prayer. I have awakened almost every single morning in disbelief at the news on my favorite morning show. I have watched dear friends snarl at me with words and daggers in their own hearts and I have fallen to my knees in sheer and desperate hope that the blinders on someones eyes would be lifted. “Change me or change them” I have prayed. I keep hoping that a small act of peace (like me keeping my mouth shut) will bring a major shift in peace.
I try to look at each person with kindness in my heart because I still believe in the family of man and therefor every person matters. YET if I am honest (and I try to be) I don’t always feel love or kindness towards someone or something that can and is hurting the very foundation I have walked upon for over 60 years.
I actually said out loud over Christmas (the season of love right?) when I heard what our President had been doing with big pharma, big oil and gas, big chemical companies “I hate him.” My sweet dad and my beloved sister both admitted they have felt similar feelings but then I hear dear God loving friends say how much hope they have in this President, while others (equally dear) hate with verbal venom, (out loud as I did). Not what one would expect from these tender Christian hearts.
I remember now how to survive all of this. I remember now the only thing that can get me to let go of any of this (I can hold on to my anger, my hate, my pain like a dog with a bone if left to my own devices) The only thing that I will pry my fingers open for healing is love. Love that does not come from me, for in my pain and fear and anger I am not capable of a loving response. I want to lash out, have the last word, raise my soul gun of a comeback and let them have it. I feel the heat rise up in my stomach when I hear about a half a million bees killed by vandalism, when I hear that our beautiful National parks are being shaved down to a fraction of what they were for oil and gas and development, when border walls are being built, when Tweets are sent over Uranium and war, when big business is given tax breaks while the poor are being punished. I feel my broken heart when friends who I love reject me because of my stance. This time in history is without question full of hardened hearts and soulful hatred. Yet I must remember this
I have been watching and reading about cancer fights by young women who exhibit such courage and grace and wisdom that I am reminded of my blessings (No matter how sick I am.) Crazy, Sexy, Cancer is a documentary by Kris Carr and while I lay in bed with my latest round of either the flu, or a cold or shingles or herpes or an autonomic adverse reaction to my heart which left me soaking a bed all the while my heart was in a race to the heavens with it’s 150 bpm, I am reminded (by my husband who said it could be worse which at the time didn’t feel very supportive, but he is right.) As a two time cancer survivor I am reminded of the grace of God on my life that has sustained me through a lifetime of an under reactive or over reactive Immune system. I am reminded of the sheer tenacity of my spirit to overcome the incredible challenges that have come my way and I awaken thankful and grateful. My friend lost her beloved husband last night, unexpectedly while I was irritated with mine. I am reminded once again to Be grateful for what I have. I have a hardworking, loyal man who adores me. Through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. He appears to be a rare bird these days as I am sure most men would be long gone. I am reminded that I am going on 10 years since cancer came marching across the landscape of my life. Did I have all the support I needed in loved ones? Nope…(they apologized, said they were scared) and do I understand why people who love you leave you in the middle of your darkest nights? I don’t…but I do know that GOD never left me. That was an amazing truth, that in the midst of drowning in the sorrow and fear and pain, GOD was there.
So this morning, I am reminded to count those blessings, the dog snoring peacefully, the hot water, my sleeping husband, the home that sustains me in winter. I am reminded that I have a choice to be thankful and to count every blessing. Every teeny tiny blessing which all add up to one blessed day, which brings me another blessed awareness of a life worth fighting for.