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But God

God is surprising.

Which is strange, since He’s also the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I think the reason that God is so surprising to me is because a creature as flighty and unfaithful as myself cannot comprehend that kind of constancy.

At my very best – my most gracious, magnanimous, disciplined, and most faithful, I still find the persisting goodness of God INCOMPREHENSIBLE.  How could anything be so unyielding?  Everything bends under the right conditions: granite, titanium, diamonds.

But not God.

This is why, no matter how many times I hear it, the gospel still makes my heart beat fast.  My breath still catches in my chest.  I still cry all the time.

Because, really?  Still?

It’s too sweet.  Too much love, too much mercy – it’s too good to be true – except it’s not.

And peppered throughout scripture are two little words that that point to this astonishing constancy of God – to His, as Sally Loyd-Jones writes, never-stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.

These two words make me lean forward in my seat –into the story.  They make me whisper, “Oh! This is the good part.”


They are the surprise I know is coming.  Like the flips inside your belly when you free-fall on a roller coaster:  you know it, you’ve felt it, you see it coming.  But then IT IS, and it thrills you again, anew, every time.

“They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them.” Nehemiah 9:17

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:7-8]

 These words are carried through scripture, from start to finish, on the river of God’s mercy.  They speak to both his immovability and to his great compassion.  How improbable that those two qualities would coexist.  But they do.  But God.  He is immovably compassionate.

“But God” means who He is and how He is is completely independent of who we are or how we are.  Oh, you are a traitor?  Adulterer?  Murderer?  Zealot?  Racist?  Christian-killer?  BUT GOD.

God is the independent variable.  You can change, tweak, and alter everything else – but not God.  He is out of your league, literally.  You can do or be whatever, fill-in-the-blank, but God.

“But God” means He can give grace lavishly because He gives it on His own terms.  He loves us because He is loving, not because we are loveable.  He loves us in spite of ourselves.  I love the despite-ness of God.

Oh, we are rotten?  But God.
Oh, we were dead in our sins?  But God.
Oh, we are unfaithful?  But God.
Oh, we deserve death?  But God.

“But God’s” punctuate my own life, marks of His hand, evidence of his care.  My whole existence is a series of “This happened to me, but God.  This is what I feared, but God.  This is where I hurt, but God.  This is what I did, but God.”  I can’t imagine two more hope-filled words.  They are full of promise.  Because, no matter what horror or chaos or evil you are surviving, “BUT GOD.”

God is supreme and above and immovable.  He is gracious and merciful and lavishly loving.  Nothing is impossible for Him; nothing is too hard.  He makes streams in the desert; He makes ways where there are no ways.

 ”All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”  [Ephesians 2:3-5]

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” [Genesis 50:20]

“Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean.”  [Acts 10:28]

“People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’”  [Luke 18:15-16]

“My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” [Psalm 73:26]

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  [Matthew 19:26]

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  [Romans 6:23]

It should not surprise me, but it does.
Every time.
BUT GOD.

 

The Night I Bathed in the Toilet By Candlelight

Here’s a dirty little secret of mine: I  bleach the hair on my arms.

I have great hair,  but the downside to having thick, dark hair is that I have thick, dark hair.  On my arms.  On my legs.  On my eyebrows.

Yesterday I decided to try Nair for the first time ever.  Because, what’s the worst that could happen?

HA HA HA HA HA.  WELL.  Let me tell you about the worst that can happen.

I applied a thick layer of the cream to my arms and waited the prescribed one minute.

It is important to note that the instructions for Nair state, in capital letters, “DO NOT LEAVE ON FOR MORE THAN 10 MINUTES.”  It is also important to note that my oven was self-cleaning while this ill-fated attempt at hair removal was going on.

At the end of my one-minute, at which point the acid had nearly disintegrated all of my arm-hair and I was climbing into the shower, the greedy, power-hungry, menace of an oven sucked up all the power in the entire house and every single breaker blew.  Including the one for the water pump.

I flipped on the shower, the pipes hissed at me, then – silence.

Silence except for the voices in my head going, “No, no, no, no, no, NO, NO.”

I rushed to the sink.  Nothing.

I ran to the kitchen and yanked open the fridge.  Why is there no bottled water in my house?!

Then the lights went out.

Then I said a lot of cuss words in my head.

So, to recap:  I am standing in my kitchen, in a towel, in the dark, with acid slowly burning the hair off of my arms, and in 8 minutes, my skin – and the water is out.

Things I considered:
1. Rinsing it off with juice.
2. Running to the neighbors house in my towel.
3. Using the water in the toilets.
4. Wiping it off with a towel, letting the hospital treat the boils with skin grafts, and wearing long sleeves every day for the rest of my life.

I hope you’ll agree with me that using the water in the toilets is the lesser of the evils represented here, effectually proving that I’M NOT CRAZY.

And that is how it came to pass that I stood over a toilet, a lantern between my teeth, and frantically sponge-bathed Nair off of my arms with toilet water, in a surreal, embarrassing race against the clock.

Which brings me to the morals of this story – there are three.

1.  Any over-the-counter product whose main selling point is that it chemically burns things off of your body in 2 minutes, do not use that thing.

2. Amend your toilet cleanliness standards from “A Party Guest Should Be Able to Throw Up In It” to “Would Personally Be Willing To Rinse Nair Off Of Arms In It.”

And finally, most practically,

3. Cleaning your oven is overrated.

 

Update:  There are no boils on my arms, and the rash should disappear any day now.  Aaaaaannny day.

 

 

 

Letter to 22-Year-Old Me

It has been almost six years since a doctor told me that Madeline was blind.

I remember everything.  What I was wearing.  What he said, exactly.  The 6,704,870 thoughts I had on the drive home.  Some traumas turn into blurs; this one is emblazoned on my memory.

In my wildest hopes I would not have dared to image Madeline as she is today.

This is what I would tell six-years-ago-me, if I could.

Kate,

Everything is going to be okay.

Right now, in the future, Madeline is watching The Magic School Bus episode about outer space.  That’s right – she can watch TV.  She sits really close on her little red footstool, and she has two younger brothers, with perfect vision, who also sit close because that’s how their big sister taught them to do it.  (They also took their first steps with a white cane, which was adorable.)

Here is what I want you to know, young, scared Kate.

Madeline is going to have friends.  She is going to run - fast and hard and fearless.  She knows braille.  You know braille.  It is hard, and you’re going to cry and quit for a little while, but when Madeline is in kindergarten, you help her with her homework and you both read it pretty effortlessly and everything is okay.  (Incidentally, Madeline is going to surprise you all the time with the things she can see.  Even when she is six, she will still be surprising you – and every doctor and teacher she has.)

You’ve never cried in an IEP meeting, or after one.  Only before – because fear of a thing is almost always worse than reality.  Try not to worry.

Madeline is incredibly bright.  Her vocabulary is enormous – annoyingly so.  But she’s not just smart-bright; she’s a sparkle.  Everything in her whole life is over-the-top big.  She says things like:

“I know I have a lot of days left to live, but I know that no day could possibly be better than this day.”

“I will listen to you, I will listen to daddy, I will listen to anyone, even after I DIE I WILL LISTEN.”

“The only thing better than your painting is GOD.”

And “Pluto is the most important planet in my life.” 

She is some kind of special; people are drawn to her.

There are so many bright, happy things about your life, and I won’t spoil the surprises.  Here is the most important thing:

Darling, do not fear what you don’t really know.  Do not grieve for things you haven’t lost yet; you may not end up losing them at all.

Madeline’s middle name is Hope – you had no way of knowing how perfect a christening that was for her, but I am here to tell you she has lived up to it in every way.  She has been spreading hope, warm in the hearts everyone who has the privilege to watch her, for six years now.  For six years, just sparkling and hope-spreading: hope to families touched by ONH, hope to teachers, hope to doctors, hope to friends – hope to everyone.

Don’t worry.  Don’t be afraid.  It gets better.  You get better.  You are carried on rhythms of grace, on the backs of friends, and on prayers of the faithful the whole way – every step.  Every hard-fought step, every uncertain step, every hail-mary, God-save-us step, you are carried.

Life is brutal and it is beautiful; Glennon Melton calls it brutiful.  And, God, is it ever.

But you can do this.  You are doing it, and you are doing a good job.
Darling, do not fear what you don’t really know.
Breathe.
Hope.

love,
present Kate

P.S.  She does eventually learn to buckle her seat belt and put on her own socks, so don’t sell her; she pulls through.

 (All photos by Brooke Courtney Photography)

My Previous Works

Today I drug out the big box full of my and Madeline’s baby books.  It was all sugar and spice and everything nice until I came across a manila folder full of some elementary school work that my mom saved.  YOU GUYS.  I HAVE NOT LAUGHED THIS HARD IN WEEKS.  Maybe months.  Maybe ever.

As it turns out, I wrote quite a few books in my younger years.

First, this ode to my mother.

She’s okay,  I guess.

Then this one.

At the time I was using Kathryn as my pen name.  In my defense, this was before anyone introduced me to the concept of “plagiarism.”

I was also doing all of my own illustrations.

Just to be clear, not everything is a vegetable.  (MOM.)

I wrote some fiction, fairy tales in particular.  Probably because I could not resist trying my hand at the “castle-inside-the-first-letter” technique.

Also, it seems my mother used to scream at me when I barged in on her in the shower.   This is a universal and timeless part of parenting.

In my early works I experimented with some creative spelling.

And it is xspeshalee clear that my excellent self-esteem was already in tact.

My longest work to date is a short story titled, “A STORY OF AN UNICORN” [sic.]  It turns out my parents were ruthless editors who did not feel that young unicorn romance and baking witches into cakes were wise plot choices for me at this point in my writing career.

Neither was young unicorn polygamy.

They did, however, encourage me to keep writing books, to which I responded:

 

Maby I will, maby I will…

Gotta Go Through It


We’re going on a Lion Hunt! (We’re going on a lion hunt!)

We’re not scared!  (We’re not scared!)
Look what’s up ahead!  Tall grass! 
Can’t go over it.
Can’t go under it.
Can’t go around it.
Gotta go through it.
Swish, swish, swish.

“Going on a Lion Hunt” is still a favorite story of mine; it’s rhythmic and suspenseful and fun.  But now, as an adult, it is also my mantra: what I whisper to myself when I feel the tendrils of despair start to curl around my heart.

All of my favorite people have been through some stuff – terrible, awful, heartbreaking stuff.  I’m proved right every time I meet a new person whom I instantly like; the more I get to know them, the more I learn about the stuff they’ve been through:  chronic illnesses, serious depression, betrayals, affairs, ugly divorces, deaths of children, addiction, cancer.

I like them,  I’ve learned, because those terrible circumstances create something beautiful inside of us.  Something  precious is forged in our hearts as we walk through the difficult, painful places.  The gauntlet strips off pretension, pride, insincerity, piousness, and anything false.  Underneath we find gentleness, humility, wisdom, compassion, bravery, and indomitable strength.  Refined by fire, the Bible calls it, burning off the dross, leaving the gold.

There are no shortcuts to that beautiful, beautiful countenance.  You have to go through some stuff to get there.

Just like there is no shortcut to a baby; you have to go through labor, and morning sickness.

Just like there is no shortcut to a Thanksgiving table full of well-adjusted grown-up children; you have to go through the Terrible 2′s.

There is no shortcut to seasoned love; you have to go through the fights – all of them – no giving up.

There is no shortcut to forgiveness; you have to feel the pain to get to the other side.

There is no shortcut to health; you have to trudge through the pain, the meds, the therapy.

There is no shortcut to healing, to moving on, after a catastrophic loss; you just have to keep walking through.

When it comes to the tough stuff of life, the best way out is always through.

So if this season of life seems so hard you can’t breathe, know that while you might come out weary, broken, a little worse for the wear, you’ll shine.  Refined, like gold.  Take a deep, raggedy breath, say a prayer, and steel yourself.  

Because you can’t go over it.
Can’t go under it.
Can’t go around it.
You gotta go through it.
 

  

 (source)

There Is Room

As much as I know friends and families that are aching for babies, I also have friends that aren’t quite sure.  That are, if not off-put, at least confused by the “waiting until your thirties to think about babies” trend that is rampant in my generation.  I don’t presume to know what’s “right” for every family, in every situation, but I do know something of having babies.  So this post is for all of the might-be, would-be moms and dads who are cautiously dipping their toes in the water, who are apprehensive and curious.  This is for those that are wondering.  

 

If you are wondering about having a baby,  

Hoping.
Debating.
Considering.
Trying.
Scared.
Uncertain.

Is there time?
Am I ready?
Are we ready?
Financially?
In our marriage?
Emotionally?
In my career?

“Is there room?”

Is there room in my lifestyle?
In my budget?
In my family?

I am a mother of 3 babies; 2 of them were unplanned.  I am here to tell you that the answer is “yes.”  There is room.

There is room in your home.  There is room for a tiny cradle, even if it sits squarely between your bed and your dresser – or in the middle of the living room.  Babies don’t need Pinterest nurseries, their own rooms, or even cribs. Babies need mommas’ arms, and there is room.

 There is room in your body.  Just when you think you can’t stretch any more, you can.  Your body was made to take care of that baby, and whether you are pregnant with one or with five, there is room.

There is room in your lap.  If you are worried about a big sister or a big brother, don’t.  One of the most precious gifts you could ever give your child is a sibling.  Moms’ laps have room for two – and three, and four, and five.  Buried in babies is the purest joy, the deepest satisfaction. There is room.  

There is room in your heart.  If you are afraid that you will never be able to love anything as much as you love your husband (boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, or dog), you will.   If you are afraid that you could never love another baby as much as you love your first – you can – and you will.  If you think the love might break you, it will, and that’s good.  A mother’s heart has an inexhaustible capacity for love.  There is room.

This is what I am learning and re-learning from my third child:  there is room.  There is room in my body, room in my home, room in my lap, room in my heart.   Babies are gifts, and there is always room.

OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT.

I Instagrammed this last Thursday.

That is my signature.

On a final contract with Broadman & Holman Publishers.

On its way to Lifeway Christian Resources.

And just like that, it’s official.  I am writing a book.

Actually, I lied.  I’m not writing a book; I’m writing THREE books.

I’ve alluded to these books for a while now, as this process has already been a long one, but now that the blood ink is on the page, I’m coming out of the closet.  A lot of you suspected I was in there, and you were right.  I am coming out of the first-time-author closet.

The books are based on last year’s “Ten Things I Want To Tell Teenage Girls,” and they are fun.

That’s the thing about stepping into the publishing world upside down and backwards (I’ll share this story with you eventually):  I get to write my fun book first.

If I had started with a manuscript, you can bet your ever-lovin’ mind that it would not have been about teenage girls.  But since I didn’t start with a manuscript (I started with a blog post that mounted into a tidal wave which I am gratefully choosing to ride), I get to do my cheeky, sassy, hyperbolic, “lets have a conversation about vapor-thin American Eagle tanks and Facebook statuses more dramatic and narcissistic than Lady Macbeth and the implications both of those things have on womanhood – real, strong, noble womanhood” book first.

It is so. much. fun.

Here’s what you need to know:

- The first book is written to you, my peers:  teachers, youth leaders, moms & dads, aunts & uncles – people who happen to be influencers of teenage girls.  People who have had it “up to here.”  People who read the post and immediately sent it to the teenager in their life.  People who said,

“I wish someone had told me this 20 years ago!”

“This is what I’ve been trying to tell my teenager for YEARS.”

“This isn’t just for teenage girls; this is the best advice I’ve read for women anywhere!”

“This should be mandatory reading for all high school students.”

You loved it, you shared it, you get a book.

- The second book is written TO teenage girls.  For the girls who read the post and said,

“I am a teenage girl and this is SO TRUE.”

“I am a teenage girl and I cried when I read this; it is exactly what I needed to hear.”

“I am a teenage girl and I hate your guts, shut up, you don’t know me!”

It touched a nerve.  You loved it, you hated it, you hated me.  You get a book.

- The third book is for everyone who said, “What about the boys?”

They get a book, too.  Dan is writing that one with me/for me.  So maybe I should say, “If we don’t kill each other in the process of attempting to complete a project together as a married couple, then you get a book.”

- There are stories.
Stories about my impulse purchase of neon purple leggings, my first trip to the tanning bed, and a subsequent trip to a tanning bed in which my friend, Nicole, and I almost attacked an elderly man with a hot curling iron.

Stories about the time I gave flirting lessons to girls on my dorm, about a completely mortifying rebound relationship of mine, and about the time I got a phone call from my child’s teacher to tell me that my firstborn had run from the school bathroom, naked, in front of 17 of her peers.

There are lots of fun stories.

- The tentative release date for all three books is summer 2014.

So GET EXCITED. There are big things ahead, and big things here in the process.

So much love,
Kate

The Pregnant Sadist

Next week I enter “the home stretch.”

For those of you who have not been 36 weeks pregnant before, the “home stretch” is the time when kind, nurturing mothers turn into sadists.

At 36 weeks, it is not enough for my husband to be kind to me.  It is not enough for him to be patient and “understanding.”  It is not even enough for him to bring me dinner and rub my back.  No,

I want him to KNOW

When Dan tells me that I’m awesome for carrying this baby, I want him to know just exactly how right he is.

It would bring me great, immeasurable joy for Dan to feel my pain.

(Did you think I was kidding? Because I’m talking about actual sadism here.)

Now – I don’t want him to experience the home stretch symptoms all at once – that’s too easy, like diving into the deep end of a cold pool.  I want to introduce each malady separately, to give him a minute to “appreciate” each one.

I would start with fatigue.  Third trimester fatigue.  A fatigue that no long day at work, no string of sleepless nights could ever match.  A fatigue that clouds your head and your eyes so thickly that you have to lean on the walls to remain upright – flopping back and forth between furniture and major appliances just to keep from breaking your nose when you do a narcoleptic face-plant into the living room floor.  And mid-yawn, just when he’s thinking, “Sweet Lord,  I’ve never been this tired in my life…,” BAM!  I’m going to hit him with the pelvic pressure.

You know, the hip-widening.  When you feel like your hip bones are grinding against each other as if they are being forced apart by an unyielding foreign object – which they are.  When his hazy brain wraps itself around the sensation of grinding bones and the suspicion that all his organs are about to fall out of his pelvic floor, I’ll add the back pain.

The lower back pain that aches whether you sit, stand, squat, lie down, or hang by your toes.  The kind that is only alleviated by floating in a large body of water, because that is the only way to lighten the 30lb load hanging off the front of your torso, dangling by your back muscles all day long.

Once he’s wrapped his mind around the fatigue, the hip-widening, and the lower back ache, I would like for his sciatic nerve to shoot a lightning bolt down his leg once every hour or so – just to keep him on his toes.  I would also introduce intermittent punches to his bladder and imaginary cervix at this time.  I would be even happier if he peed himself a little bit.

Now that all of that is going on, I would like for the lower right quadrant of his abdomen to become completely numb, like a dead foot that won’t wake up no matter how creatively he tries to contort himself to restore circulation.  This way his entire torso, back-to-front, top-to-bottom, would be in a total state of disaster.

You see how much he would miss if I just flipped a “symptoms on” switch?  He would just think his abdomen was wigging out.  Yes, it is much better this way.

Next, I would like for him to experience one minute of false labor.  I think a single, 60-second contraction should do it.  I want him to feel like everything from his ribs down to his man-parts is seizing up.  A strange sensation at first, then uncomfortable, then worrisome, then “WHAT THE…I CAN’T WALK!”

At this point he’s probably forgotten about the fatigue, but is very confused about what is happening to his body.  With all the leg/pelvic/lower back/abdominal pain he probably suspects he has a large tumor growing right between his hips (interestingly, right about where a uterus would be).

Next I would like to introduce swelling.  I would like for his hands and feet to become white-hot and itchy, and for his skin to feel so tight that he is actually afraid that it might split open – like in that disturbing scene from Seven.

After the swelling,  I would introduce the heartburn.  It should be incessant, as if his stomach were being forced back up his esophagus by an unyielding foreign object, which it is.  I would like for a little bit of lunch/gastric acid to make it all the way into his mouth every time he leans forward or bends over, angering the foreign object.

Okay, so we have fatigue, hip-widening, lower back pain, shooting sciatic nerve, bladder punches, numb torso, a mild contraction, swelling in the extremities, and persistent heartburn.  I think all we’re missing is a wicked, wicked Charlie Horse.

One so fierce that he can SEE THE MUSCLE crumpling up underneath his skin like a fleshy sink hole.  I would like for him to claw the sheets and scream a little bit, and I would like his calf to be sore for at least 3 days.  It should be the worst muscle contraction ever – except for uterine contractions, which won’t  arrive for another 4 weeks.

At this point I’d like for him to be crying, and when he tries to explain his frustration to someone, I hope they tell him,

“Poor thing, you’re so emotional right now.”

I hope this ENRAGES HIM.  Unfortunately he’ll be so emotional that he won’t be able to punch them, he’ll just burst into tears afresh.

I think that should about cover it!

Pregnant women in the home stretch, does that not sound like your wildest dream come true?!?

Here’s the best part.  Right as he’s maneuvering himself onto the couch to turn on ESPN – as he’s trying to figure out a way to lie on his left side and simultaneously prop up his heartburn-y chest and his swollen feet – right as he’s beginning to close his exhausted eyes, wishing he could take something stronger than a Tylenol, I would like to come into the room and say,

“Hey, honey!  Here are the kids!  They’re really excited to play with you ALL DAY LONG.  Madeline wants you to get out her play-doh, but you have to make sure Sam doesn’t get it and carry it into the living room because that will make Madeline scream, plus the play-doh will get smushed into the carpet and won’t ever come out.  They’re both a little grumpy because they need to eat, but there’s plenty of stuff in the fridge for lunch! You’ll figure something out!  There’s a load of laundry that needs to move from the washer to the dryer, but you’ll have to fold the stuff in the dryer first.  Welp, I’m off to work!  Oh, and don’t forget to make tea for our small group tonight!

Okay, bye!”

I am smiling a big Grinch-smile just thinking about it.

You all pray for my husband over the next 4 weeks, he’s living with a pregnant sadist.

 

**I would like to be clear:  Dan has never spoken the above paragraph to me.  In fact, he LEFT DURING THE SUPERBOWL to go bring me a milkshake.  This post isn’t about a state of affairs, it’s about the crazy sadism that sneaks into every single mother in the history of ever at 36 weeks pregnant.  It’s about the common experience – the phenomenon.  Also, my husband rocks.  Thanks, Mgmt.**

Ophthalmologist

I’m 27 years old, I have a college education, I’ve been raising a daughter who sees a dozen vision specialists every year, and I JUST NOW learned how to spell the word “ophthalmologist.”  There is an extra “h” in there, and an “l.”  For the longest time I could remember one superfluous letter, but two was too much.  NO MORE!  I must be growing up.

This morning Madeline had her yearly check-up, and today was the first time I didn’t go with her.  There were lots of reasons, including Sam’s schedule, writing work, rush hour in ATL, and more.  It was the best of all our options, but there have been lots of Mom-tears over the last 48 hours.

I got up at 5:20.

I’m sorry, did that not resonate with you?

I GOT UP AT 5:20.  That is how much I love my child.

Madeline was in remarkably good spirits considering I normally have to lure her out of her bed with breakfast foods.  A trail of little zucchini muffins all the way from her bedside into the living room, like Hansel and Gretel.  Madeline does a lot of things well; waking up is not one of them.

I put her in her Light Up The Darkness shirt, because it brought me joy.  It brought Madeline joy too, until she got in the car and realized that her shirt did not actually light up the darkness.

Dan put me on speakerphone when the doctor came in, and I went crazy-mom.  I asked every question that Dan had already asked and gave him way too much information/opinion/commentary about the size, shape, color, distance, contrast, and velocity of every single object Madeline appeared to have noticed in the last 365 days.

I birthed her; such is my right.

This was the first check up where Madeline was verbal enough and cooperative enough to give us some solid information.  As in, “Yes I can see that letter.”  This was the first check up where they were able to check each eye individually.  It was the first check-up without me.  The first check-up that we did not have to man-handle her little head into that giant machine with the chin-rest.   Big day.

Madeline was chipper, enthusiastic, vocal, and cooperative.  She is the best.

Her greatest disappointment of the day was not the early rising, the drive, or even the eye drops; it was that her class was learning about spiders today, as this is “creepy crawly insect” week at school, and she had to miss it.  She requested that I go to the library and get “a really good book about spiders” while she was at her appointment.  I will oblige.  Because I love my child.

Here are some quick thoughts about vision loss today:

1. It’s okay with me if Madeline never sees any better than she can right now.  That’s called peace, and it’s amazing.

2. Madeline continues to blow everyone’s socks off with how well she uses her functional vision.  No vision teacher or doctor has ever interacted with her and not left astounded.

3. I wish that you could know how it feels for me to sing the words to Amazing Grace.  I wish that you could feel the anguish and joy of “was blind but now I see.”  Or to read Psalm 139: “The night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to You.”  Or 1 Peter 2:9: “…That you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” Or any one of the hundred other references in scripture to our lost-in-the-sin-sick-darkness and to God’s bright and morning star, light-of-the-worldness.

Everybody can experience God’s bright rescue – Dan and I don’t have any advantage in that department.  You certainly don’t need a child with vision loss to feel the deep, deep darkness in your soul or to see it in the world.

But - we do have the great privilege of seeing blindness, literally, every day.  We get to see how it affects everything.  We understand the fullness of joy we would experience if our daughter’s vision were completely restored – if she could see like we can see; we can access that emotion easily.  I was thinking about this just the other day, about how badly I want to be there when Madeline sees, fully, for the first time.  I want to watch her face.  That thought/emotion is never far beneath the surface.

Because of our understanding of literal blindness, we are able to translate that insight and emotion to spiritual blindness.  We can apply what we know (feelings of grief, loss, anger, injustice, hopelessness, desperation, dependence, need for healing) to our own spiritual condition.  Like copy/paste.  When God says that our eyes are blinded by sin and mortal-humanness, that we live in darkness – we are fortunate enough to understand the level of lostness and need that He’s getting at.  I get what what happen if Madeline wandered out of the yard; I have to push the thought out of my mind often because the fear is not healthy.  It would be dangerous for any child, but magnified for my darling.  She could not see roads, cars, ditches or ant hills.  Unlike most school-age children, she could not find her way home.

Oh, we understand fully, the depth and desperation of our need.

And therefore, we are able to understand the sweetness of The Light.  

This is why I cannot read a single verse or sing a single stanza about God opening the eyes of the blind, or delivering us from darkness to light, without crying.   I never have to pause and imagine what that would feel like – I already know.

The Light feels like – like joy so full it makes your ribs ache.  Like a thousand tongues to sing a thousand praises would never be enough.  Like body-rocking-sobs.  Like relief so big that your knees give out and you fall on your face because you can’t stand up under the goodness of it.

It feels like glory.

It feels like salvation- because that’s exactly what it is.  

“You are a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light…once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.”

I Was There

Today was the fourth and final celebration of Madeline’s fifth birthday: the school party.

You must know that Madeline’s school is militant about what kinds of foods parents are allowed to bring to a party.  They pass out a supplemental nutrition form in the beginning of the year, which parents must turn in and receive approval for at least a week in advance.  Foods with any amount of fat or sugar get the axe.  Cupcakes and ice cream need not apply.

This is an actual excerpt from the “suggested food for a birthday party” list:

Small deli wraps or sandwiches
Whole grain or fruit muffins
Vegetable sticks with dip
Sugar-free Jello snacks
Sugar-free Angel Food Cake with fruit
Yogurt
Milk

Thanks a lot, Michelle Obama.

I was requesting permission to bring in little bags of 99% fat free Kettle Corn and cups of mandarin oranges when I found a note in Madeline’s folder which read:

We will be having our Christmas party on Monday, December 17.  If you would like to bring something for the class, feel free to do so.  This is one of the few days a year that we are allowed to have sweets.  We have 10 boys and 7 girls in our class.

You better believe I wrote a note to the teacher and hitched Madeline’s shindig to that party faster than you can say “cupcakes.”

(Although, I was not allowed to MAKE CUPCAKES without going through 14,596 miles of red tape.  I had to buy cupcakes that had a list of ingredients on the package, which is incidentally less healthy, more expensive, and also tastes gross – but whatever.)

Things got interesting when, 45 minutes before I had to BE at school, I impulsively decided to make cupcake toppers.  These were not just Christmas party cupcakes, these were “Celebrating Madeline Who, Five Years Ago, Was Born With Sparkle In Her Veins” cupcakes, and I could not have them getting lumped in with the Cheetos and Christmas cookies.

Nevermind that I hadn’t showered or eaten, and, like Sam, was still in my pajamas.   Where there’s a will there’s a way, and I have nothing if I don’t have will.

I parked Sam in his high chair munching a piece of toast and watching Veggie Tales Christmas movies and got busy.

I traced lumpy circles around my pepper shaker with a broken red crayon.  I cut out my circles, hot glued toothpicks to the backs of them, and then tried to write on the fronts with a Crayola marker – over the toothpick bumps.  So classy.

 

 

I am so sorry for the people that had to witness me running into Madeline’s school in the nick of time.  Picture this:

A very large pregnant woman who has not showered or brushed her hair in two days and is not wearing even the tiniest smidge of makeup.  She is wearing the same outfit that she has been wearing for the last two, now three, days (and this is not an exaggeration).  She has shoved two containers of store-bought cupcakes sideways into a bag which is slung over her shoulder, smashing all the icing, and she is carrying a baby on one hip.  The baby and the cupcakes are bumping along as she runs, panting, through the rain without an umbrella.

And so – I arrived to Madeline’s Christmas/Birthday party looking like a drowned rat.  A very pregnant drowned rat.

But I was there.

And when I walked in, my baby girl lit up and shouted, “MOM!!!!”

In that moment I felt no shame, no embarrassment, and no regret because I chose what mattered; I chose to be there.  I chose last-minute cupcake toppers over makeup.  I chose being on time over being late, and I’d do it a hundred times over.  This is what ultimately matters to our kids, this is what they’ll remember, whether or not we were there.

I am not a perfect mother, but I am a present mother, and at Madeline’s class Christmas party – I was there.

I would be happy if today were exactly how Madeline remembered me forever:  big, tired, a total mess, but there for her – on time and with cupcakes.