Friday, January 30, 2009

Life without a mask


Today was a "girls" day for me and Chunks-a-lot. Talks-a-lot was in school for most of the day and then headed to grandma's house this evening for a sleep-over, so it was just the two of us. We spent most of the day playing dolls and coloring pictures but I couldn't get around the fact that we needed to go to Walmart, so we packed up the car with snacks and toys and headed out. Traffic was awful, given that it was after 4pm on a Friday and Chunks decided to take this time to ask me "What's that?" about three hundred times. She also created this wonderful game where she asked for a toy, insisted I take it back, then asked to have it again and on and on it went. As I fought through the sea of bad drivers, I could feel my frustration mounting as I wondered how necessary this Walmart trip really was. But being that we were more than half-way there, I decided to continue on. As I began searching for a parking place, I glanced back at Chunks-a-lot who was sitting happily in her car seat babbling about the birds that were chasing each other in the sky. The traffic hadn't bothered her, the 30 item grocery list that lie snuggly in my purse didn't frustrate her and she didn't even seem to notice that we had to park five blocks away from the entrance of the store. I scooped her out of the car, all bundled in her warm coat and hat and found myself in awe of her never-ending smile. In an instant, I felt envious of her joy, her amazing ability to enjoy life wherever we are, whatever we're doing. I started thinking back to the hard days and weeks she endured at St. Jude's. The constant sickness, the horrible drugs, her childhood stolen for so many months and I realized how much she deserves the happiness that she continues to find in her little life. For it's not the excitement of going to Walmart or the joy of spending an afternoon playing dolls with mommy, it's the freedom to finally just be a little girl that can do all of these wonderfully normal things. She lived so many months of her life behind a mask, having her hands constantly scrubbed with hand sanitizer, never being allowed to eat a crumb off the kitchen floor and yet she endured it with such grace. And now here we are, back to life as we once had known it and I've found myself so often taking the little things for granted. No more long nights in the hospital, no more tears from the constant nausea, no more days couped up in a hospital....my little girl can run free. So I walked into Walmart tonight with a different sort of list in my head; let's just make the most of it. So I let her walk beside the buggy, with no concern for time, just watching as she giggled at the teddy bears staring at her on the shelves and finding joy and laughter in everything she saw and touched. I let her linger down the aisles and ask every question she wanted to about the different types of food and snacks. I even let her carry around a puppy dog shirt that she fell in love with, simply because she deserves it. If she can find such joy in life then I want to make sure I find it with her. And I was delighted to take the time to just get lost in her world. Not that I could live everyday without rules or structure, but sometimes it's okay to just throw the list away and find an adventure instead; and that's just what we did. It might have just been a simple trip to Walmart but it was such a sweet time for the two of us together, doing something so normal and loving every minute of it. Sometimes I feel like I live my life behind my own sort of mask, shut off from the joy of the world around me, so caught up in what comes next that I miss what's right in front of me. I guess I figure, well, she took off her mask....maybe I should take off mine.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Copycat

Have you ever noticed how little girls always want to be just like their big brothers? Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed some of the cutest moments where my little Chunks-a-lot has tried her hardest to be just like her big brother.

Exhibit one:
It might appear as though she's just coloring, but she's really "helping" Talks-a-lot "write" a book




Exhibit Two:
Here she is trying to play the Wii. She was even clever enough to throw in an occasional "Ah, man!" to make it seem as though she were actually playing.




Exhibit Three:
After dropping Talks-a-lot off at kindergarten, this was Chunks' way of celebrating his memory



But don't think that this is a one way street because there are about a million times during the day where Talks-a-lot makes this face to me



Impersonating this:



Chunks' famous "fake crying face" that she uses when she doesn't get her way.

This is what I love about children, they show their love for each other in the strangest (and cutest) ways.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pint-sized drama


As thankful as I am to be at home and have my little Chunks-a-lot back to acting like a "normal" toddler, I've found a couple of things that are hard about this situation.....she's acting like a "normal" toddler! I spent the last seven months catering to a very sick and lethargic child, jumping at her every command and begging her to eat even the smallest bite of a meal. I do not regret my actions, as they were the only thing I could do considering the situation, but it now seems as though she remembers (gasp) the way things "used to be". Today I fixed her lunch and we sat down at the table, as we always do, so she could gorge herself on meal number five at 1:00 in the afternoon. She decided that it would be much better to eat her meal on the couch and softly said, "Eat....couch?". I smiled and assured her that it was not a good idea to eat on the couch and we were going to stay seated at the table for lunchtime. I guess what I expected was a courteous nod and a returned smile, but instead I got a look of disgust and a commanding, "EAT....COUCH!". I was a bit taken aback by this response and firmly, but nicely, reminded my little peanut that we don't talk like that to mommy. Actually, I believe my exact words were, "No ma'am, that's not nice to talk to mommy like that.". My tone of voice couldn't have been softer or sweeter, but she still poked her bottom lip out and collapsed into a full blown murderous cry. Where does this drama fit in such a small human being? She also tried to touch the space heater today (even though it was off) and I said, "Nuh-uh, that's not a good idea.". She rubbed her right foot into the ground, poking it inwards as though she were bow-legged, looked up at me with a very sly grin and poked her tiny lip out. "Are you upset?", I asked, surprised that she would even have a reaction to my calm direction. And once again, she made a B-line to where I was sitting, collapsed into my arms and cried so viciously that she actually had to stop just to catch her breath. It's like you can actually see her feelings and emotions flapping around on her sleeve, you can see the heartbreak at just hearing the word "no" muttered, she is truly the epitome of the inner workings of a woman's heart. Yet I look at her chubby little face and I can't help but smile at her because she's acting like a toddler! I never thought I would rejoice in my daughter's ability to have the energy to have an attitude, but I secretly do. Ahh, I am blessed to spend my days breaking up fights, mediating who-had-what-first, and being a mommy to one little pint-sized drama-queen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Any of them will do...


Tonight, Chunks-a-lot, Talks-a-lot and I all curled up in Talks-a-lot's bed for some books and prayer time. Talks-a-lot was being very affectionate with his sister as she snuggled up beside him on his pillows. His prayer tonight went like this:
"Dear Jesus, please heal little Chunks. I like her being here. Please just take her tumor away. Maybe just send one of your angels to take care of her, watch over her and help her feel better. It doesn't matter which angel you send, any of them will do. Please just heal her."
Geesh, it's moments like this that not only humble me where I stand but make me realize how blessed I am to be the mother of two such incredible children. "Jesus, just send your angels....any of them will do."

Friday, January 16, 2009

You believed them?


I had a very interesting conversation with my son the other night and it started with this question:
Talks-a-lot: "How do you know Chunks-a-lot is a girl?". Thinking I could brush off this possibly birds-and-the-bee's question, I went with the silliest answer first, "What do you mean, her name is Chunks, that's how I know". Not much to my surprise, this did not work. Talks-a-lot: "No, but how do you know she's a girl?". Looking down at her tiny bald head and her barely-there eyelashes, it occurred to me that because of the chemotherapy she's been through, she's lost all her physical markers as a female. Well, obviously not all of them, but she doesn't have pretty brown hair swept back into a pink bow or her beautifully long eyelashes that made every noticing woman jealous. Trying to be sensitive to the situation, I approached at a different angle. "Well, honey, I know that she doesn't have hair anymore, or her eyelashes, but she's still a little girl. Losing your hair doesn't change who you are on the inside.". Completely content with my answer, I could feel my "puppy-dog" face creeping in as I struggled to put my son's deepest questions to rest. Talks-a-lot: "No, Mommy, I mean when she was in your tummy, how did you know she was a girl?". Suddenly feeling ridiculous for my former responses, I blushed and offered up the simplest of explanations, "They took a picture of her in my tummy and the doctors told me she was a girl.". Talks-a-lot squinted his eyes in what appeared to be complete disgust, "And you believed them??". I have no words for this response, just a smile for my wonderfully curious and always cynical five year old son.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fun with lipstick

So I have this little girl....she is equally fascinated and delighted by anything girly. Purses, dolls, pink everything and anything and then, of course, lipstick! So she "steals" it from my purse....



Tries to apply it the way mommy does....




And this is the finished product...



Could there really be anything cuter?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A deeper salvation

After my last post, I had a lot of feedback on my new understanding of Christ. I realize now that my wording might have led some to believe that I was never saved to begin with, but this is not what I meant. Sometimes I think that we get so caught up in what it means to be a "Christian" that we forget how to have a relationship with Jesus. I have believed in God for as long as I can remember, but I've spent so much of my life trying to conform into what I think I need to be that I've never focused on what Christ wants me to be. And not that I was never saved to begin with, but just that I have been walking a spiritual journey for the past 20 years and, recently, reached a very pivotal moment in my walk with God. I thought I knew what salvation was but I now see how immature my previous understanding really was. It's kind of like my relationship with my husband. Seven years ago, at the beginning of our marriage, I loved him as deeply as I thought I ever could. But as time has gone on and the memories we have together have compounded, I now see how much deeper my love for him is. It's not that I didn't love him in the beginning, it's just that I didn't know him deeply enough to love him as much as I do now. That's what I have experienced lately with Christ. I thought I knew what it meant to be a Christian and to be a child of God, but I only now realize the true definition of salvation. And my understanding is so much deeper than it once was and all of the doubts I used to have have faded into the background as Christ has come center stage. I know where I am going one day, I know where my future rests, I know the home I get to enter into when my time on this earth is done. And whether that means I've just now discovered salvation or just found a deeper meaning to my previous understanding of salvation, I'm really not sure. And I don't think it really matters as long as you know your Savior. After all, I think a relationship with Christ should be one that constantly changes and grows as time passes. I'd like to think that the day we reach a full understanding of Jesus is the day we're standing before Him on the throne. And until that day comes, I hope to always be blown away by His presence, mercy and love. Salvation doesn't begin and end the day you accept Christ into your heart, it's a journey that lasts a lifetime and I can't wait to take the next step.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The day I met Jesus


I grew up in a Christian home, constantly surrounded by Bible studies and Wednesday night church. God was something I never doubted, never questioned and never ventured from; Christianity was my religion. I claimed my salvation at the young age of seven and hardly missed a Sunday morning at church, yet God always seemed more like a story to me instead of a Father. Throughout my adulthood, I have struggled to find myself. Constantly searching for who I think I am only to be frustrated when my new vision of myself didn't "stick". I would pray to God at night, the same prayer almost every night, always living in the comfort zone of my lukewarm claim to Christianity. Then came Chunks-a-lot and I began a journey that I only now recognize as life-changing in regards to my eternity. Living at St. Jude's was hard and the constant stress of seeing my little girl sick was sometimes so overwhelming that I felt numb. I would cry out to Jesus, beg Him for intervention and then celebrate in all the small victories and tiny miracles. Each day felt like a learning experience and it all led up to one important day....the day I met Jesus. It was a few weeks before we came back home for good and I was on the treadmill in the fitness center, running off my stress and anxiety while casually listening to Dr. Charles Stanley preach on the television above me. It wasn't anything profound in the message on T.V., in fact it wasn't even a sermon about salvation or eternity, but for some reason something inside of me broke. I stopped running and just stood there, sweat dripping down my face, heart pounding in my chest and I felt Him. I had cried out to Jesus so many times, with such angst and heart-wrenching emotion but this was the first time that I had ever truly met the spirit of God. And there He was, not in a visual sense, but just all around me, comforting my broken spirit. I realized at that moment that this "religion" I've so desperately clung to for so long is not a religion at all....it's a relationship. That might not be a profound thought, but it was more the understanding that came with it that melted me where I stood. I suddenly understood my former frustrations with my identity as the only peace and sense of self I'll ever find is wrapped up in Him. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I quietly surrendered my life to him. Not because I was taught to do so, not because it was second nature, not because that's what Christianity requires, but simply because I longed to. And then the most amazing thing happened, He entered my spirit. He met me right where I was, broken-hearted, vulnerable and weak and opened my eyes to the peace that comes with a true relationship with Christ. Now I look back on this past year of medical and emotional trauma and I feel so humble, for God took something so tragic and used it to bring me to Him. And it's not a spiritual high that you feel after a Church retreat, it's every thought, every action, every breath....you feel Him. Gently nudging you towards patience, softly encouraging you towards obedience and always filling you with His mercy and love. It's taken me almost 27 years to find who I really am and now I finally know......I'm His.