The Sweetness of June

The Sweetness of June

Come June, the air hangs rich. Laced with late peony and lilac, around every corner, I inhale deep in sweet anticipation.

What smells so good?

We find ourselves tucking faces into flowers at every possible opportunity. I beckon my four-year-old to a dew-damp, hot-pink peony pom-pom, and we touch noses to petals.

Mmmmm…

peony 2

Just last weekend we visit my parents’ farm. There, we hunt honeysuckle — perhaps the sweetest of June’s scents. A single, slender, plucked blossom sets me awash in its delicate perfume. I press my thumbnail against the base of the trumpet-shaped flower, cutting off the end and pulling forth the long stamen.

I watch closely for the tiny bubble of nectar and then greedily suck it out — a tiny but powerful hit of pure sweetness. We do this again and again, because honeysuckle season comes but once a year.

I remember the time our air conditioning broke on the way home from Ohio, one hot June day some years ago. The girls and I arrived home, heads tousled and noses full of sweetness.

Then, as now, I wonder what it would be like to live senses alive — not just when the AC breaks and we’re forced to roll down the windows, but every day.

honeysuckle

What if we could stop looking and begin seeing?
What if we could cease hearing and start listening?
What if we could give up tasting and learn savoring?

What does it take to wake our slumbering senses? Must something break to get our attention?

***

The sweet season only lasts a few weeks in this part of the country (that little place on the U.S. map where Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania meet).

Just about the time we begin to take the honeyed air for granted, it ends. First, the lilacs fade and then the peonies drop their petals. Next, the wild locusts finish shedding their blossoms, and the honeysuckle wanes.

We are there now; in the waning. But, this year, more than ever, I want to retain the lessons of the sweet. I want to learn what it feels like to do life with all five senses aquiver.

blueberries

I want to memorize the wind chimes’ melody and feel the exact way the breeze lifts the fine, newly golden hairs on my forearms.

I want to pop a fat blueberry in my mouth and appreciate its precise phase of ripeness {tart, semi-sweet, sweet, past-prime}.

I want to pad out into the yard at midnight and look up at stars slung over lofty treetops, see their black-green leafy globes alight with fireflies.

I want to step out on my deck in the cool morning mist and recognize in my heart the intermingled feeling {part wildness, part mystery, part beauty, part possibility} that I can’t remember feeling for so many years, but welcome back as an old friend.

You see, I am feeling more each day. My breaking has done its work well — it has both slowed me down and brought me back.

And, this June, I can’t think of anything sweeter.

Mmmmm… what smells so good?

 

Hospital Day Rules

Hospital Day Rules

{Photo caption: Julianne’s angel collection, which always accompanies her on overnights.}

On the day a mom with a sick kid either goes to or comes home from the hospital, you should not expect reasonable from her. Imagine her as glass — thin, worn, delicate as bone china. A little tap could send her to pieces.

Husbands, the best thing you can offer her, if you’re there when she walks in the door, is the opportunity to immediately get a shower and take a nap. This is the usually the first step to helping her regain her sanity.

Even if she arises showered and apparently refreshed, she should not be expected to cook or clean {unless, of course, she wants to}.

In fact, if you’re able to do a something special — cut a few flowers from the garden and put them in a vase on the kitchen table, or make her a fresh cup of coffee, she will be more grateful than you can ever imagine. A simple gesture like this could make the difference between her feeling fractured or healed, appreciated or emptied out.

Today is not a normal day and she is a fragile but empty vase, waiting to be filled with kind words, love, and gentleness. Rub her feet, massage her shoulders; ask her how she’s doing.

She will be filled and healed by you and, in turn, she will be able to help heal you and get your family up and running again.

Friends, neighbors, family, church family: kind, supportive words are good; prayers are golden. Even if you’re not sure what to say, or feel your words are trite, you can’t go wrong with these:

  • “I’m so sorry you have to go through this.”
  • “How can I help?”
  • “I’ll be praying for you.”
  • Or, my favorite: “Let me bring you dinner.”

If you’re able to follow up your promise to pray with a quick texted or emailed prayer, or a call within a few days, she will feel warmed, comforted.

Food and company matter. Stop by to chat and drop off some muffins or a casserole. Don’t assume she’s too busy to talk; she’s probably exhausted her husband’s and mom’s patience on certain topics and could use a fresh ear. Take time to talk, or better yet, listen — really listen.

On the other hand, here are a few things you shouldn’t do:

  • By all means, ask questions, but don’t question her decisions or actions {this will feel like an attack}.
  • Don’t assume she’s got it all under control just because she appears outwardly calm.
  • Don’t assume that it gets easier on the third (or tenth) hospital stay, because it really doesn’t.
  • And, most importantly, don’t focus so much on her sick kid that you forget her.

***

I wrote these “rules” in April, after my daughter’s first hospital stay in nearly a year. {She is going through a relapse of her autoimmune disease, Juvenile Dermatomyositis.}

We just returned from our third hospital overnight this past Friday/Saturday. I picked Julianne up from school {her last day}, and we headed straight to Children’s. We learned there that our rheumatologist believes the best plan of treatment involves a total of six overnights. {I had been under the mistaken impression we were doing three, and had thought we might be done.}

So, while Julianne’s inflammation markers have come down to the normal range, and she seems to be slowly but surely feeling more like herself, we have to be careful to slowly wean her from steroids and not withdraw treatment too quickly {and cause a relapse of the relapse}. That said, this post is not as belated as I thought, since we are only halfway through this intense phase of treatment and will be having at least three more hospital stays.

We have been blessed by the generosity and kindness of those around us over the past few months. Here are some of the bright spots in our lives since April:

  • My friend and yoga instructor Kate dropped off a book on the anti-inflammatory diet and gave Julianne and I a private yoga session, focusing on gentle moves to help her relax and to support immune health.
  • My friend Beth brought over a meal the same day she heard about Jules’ relapse. And she remains my go-to text friend who always responds with just the right words to encourage, empathize with, and support me.
  • My mom and her church family pray over us and for us, without ceasing.
  • My in-laws are always there to watch my other kids on hospital days.
  • My friend Alison made us a home-cooked meal and kept us company in the early days of Julianne’s relapse — the company was especially welcome since my husband travels so frequently and was gone that week.
  • Fellow blogger and online friend Laura and I have connected more deeply recently {though we knew each other before}, when we realized both our daughters have major health struggles. And, Laura’s daughter has become Julianne’s pen pal. The two girls have exchanged letters, little gifts, and encouragement.
  • Carol, one of the women at the Refine retreat I attended immediately before Jules’ relapse, messages me daily, checking in on both me and Julianne. She provides care, concern, prayer, and welcome doses of humour. {I am spelling humour with the “u” for her because she’s Canadian 😉 }
  • My sister and her daughters sent an awesome care package to their cousin Julianne.
  • My tribe over at godsizeddreams.com also mailed an unexpected, goodie-filled package for both Jules and I just last week.
Everything Green

Everything Green

Everyone’s at the pond. Dad’s dumping load after load of mulch on the path from the new privy to the cabin. My husband’s helping. Caroline has just decided to fish. Mimi is in the cabin with Adam.

Then, I realize not everyone’s at the pond. Julianne is back at the house, in bed. She is feeling exhausted and weak — again. I tell everyone I’m walking back to check on her.

After I struggle up the steep hill {even half-marathon runners get a little out of breath sometimes!}, the sun blossoms brilliant over the little rutted, clay-and-grass road that leads back to my childhood home.

And, I’m walking, moving through the day. I hear rich glade warbles and feel luxurious sun. A breeze, gentler now, lifts my shorn hair. I am completely at ease. My limbs hang long and loose by my side. My mind has narrowed to a tiny point of consciousness — closing out everything but this moment.

farm pathI hear the swish of grass against my sneakers. I never knew the simple sound of shoes against earth could echo perfection.

I tilt my chin to the sun, so bright, and drink it in. How I love the way it lacquers every new green leaf on the ground and in the sky — painting a fresh shine everywhere!

As my feet hit the road, grass-swishes turn to gravel-crunches, and they, too, sound beautiful. My senses have been honed, my focus as precise, as exquisitely sharp as a silvery pin tip.

As I pass the blueberry patch by the Little House and see gnarls of barbed wire twisted round ancient grayed wood, I feel unexplained joy in this moment. My burgeoning heart whispers: Lovely.

farm pic

A few nights ago, I felt a twinge inside, a sweet promise straight to the marrow of me. I sensed there’s beauty in this breaking. I sensed that as He reassembled me, I could become more whole than I have ever been.

After I’ve brushed the golden hair from her forehead and kissed it, slid a curtain over the sunny window behind her bed, I head back out. {Pa-Pa’s here now should she need anything.}

As I walk, I pause at the top of the hill overlooking the pond and wave to Caroline and Mimi, on the dock. They’re gutting four Blue Gills for tonight’s dinner. {Caroline likes to think she’s Survivorman.}

“I’m heading to the Back Field,” I yell, and my dog Jasper tears ahead of me like a maniac, betraying his city roots with rookie over-enthusiasm.

By the time I duck into the woods by the little caves, it begins to rain. Here, the trees create a canopy far overhead and the drops don’t even touch me, though I hear their soft falling. I find a perch amid silvery tree roots and sit on the hillside, arms hugging my knees.

I look at the small, dark caverns, framed by mossed rocks, but I’m not going down today. Caroline was convinced she saw a bobcat footprint in one of these mini-caves. Who am I to say yay or nay? I squint in that direction to see if I make out any movement and find none {though, personally, I wouldn’t mind catching a bobcat glimpse}.

I smile as I realize that this is my Mysterious Disappearance.

I used to disappear with regularity in these meadows, lanes, and woods — first as a child, then a teen, then a young adult. Here in the green, I felt my senses quicken and my mind sharpen. Here I dreamed; here I created stories; here, I drank in solitude by the hour-full, greedy and deep.

Just yesterday, I’m texting a friend — she hopes I’ll have some time to myself this weekend, but I tell her pragmatically that it’s hard to find time alone as part of a family of five.

She says: “Not if you run off in the woods by yourself.”

I reply: “I like that …. a Mysterious Disappearance!”

And, so it is.

And, I’m walking again, moving back to the path, which now curves slightly upward into more woods. White dogwood petals are strewn under foot. They layer the ground ahead thickly, the lane recalling a wedding aisle strewn with rose petals.

I pick one up, finger its creamy softness, let my thumb and forefinger linger in the curved, blackened divot. My heart whispers: The grave is empty.

I, who have long believed in resurrection — now, I see it. It’s here, in my palm. Like Peter, I finger the nail marks, and I know that these are wounds that heal.

Everywhere green rises from ground, emerald from brown, and the promise beats within me: I could emerge from this shattering … Complete. Comfortable. Capable. Free.

 

We Belong Together

We Belong Together

For I am Yours and You are mine.

It’s a line of the song Oceans, by Hillsong United — a song that encapsulates the ideas of facing big struggles, turning to Jesus, and resting in His embrace. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the month of May, God-sized Dreams is exploring  these issues as presented through the lyrics of the song.

I’m writing there today.

For I am Yours and You are mine.

When I read or hear the lyric above, it resonates deep. This mutual love, this perfect possession of each other’s hearts — it’s what I crave most with God…

For I am God’s, and He is mine.
For we give ourselves to each other fully.
For God loves me, and I love him.

When I see a Christian living out her faith vibrantly, I know she’s got it bad for God. And, she can’t stop thinking about Jesus either. In fact, I bet she’s totally wrapped up with the Holy Spirit. Love, the way it glows in her heart, outshines the dark confusion of a world that tells her that her love and faith and hope make no sense.

Like her, when it comes to God, I can’t be concerned about logic. Because, if I was, I’d know our love story doesn’t compute.

For I am Yours and You are mine.

The God of the entire universe knows me better than I know myself. He has planned all my days, and holds me every second of my life, wanting nothing more than to be close to me? {Really? Doesn’t He have better things to do than hang around with flawed, sinful, selfish me? He does have a whole cosmos to run.}

Join me for the rest of the story?