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Every Single Second

Parents have love-catch-phrases.  They are the things we say when we tuck our kids in at night.  You know -

“I love you to the moon and back.”  Or, “I love you with my whole heart.”

Mine is,

“I love you every single second.”

That’s the one I tell them when the love is bubbling in my guts and I have to clench my teeth and my fists to keep from squeezing them too tightly, like Lennie Small.

This is what I told Henry this afternoon when he woke up all groggy and snuggly.  I smushed my face against his precious, smushy face and I whispered, “I love you every single second.  There has never been a second of your entire life that you have not been loved.  Every second that I’ve known about you, I’ve loved you.”

Then I felt a kind of aching swell up inside of me.  I thought, “There are children to whom no one has ever said these things.  There are children that have been neglected, forgotten, resented, and abused.”

For a moment I despaired, hard.  I wished that I had infinite time and infinite resources and that I could love all the babies.  I wished that I could hold them all, skin-to-skin, and sing to them and read to them and kiss them and fix all their hurts, physical and otherwise, and tell them that I LOVED them, and that they were important and special to me.   I thought, “There are children that have not been loved every single second.”

But something in my chest caught, snagged.  I couldn’t finish that thought, because I knew it wasn’t true.

There has never been a child that wasn’t loved every single second.

I almost didn’t write this post because I was afraid that it would sound like I was glossing over the NECESSITY of earthly, human love.  I assure you I am not.   I want to love all the babies because it matters, I know this in my bones, and much of my giving is directed toward that end – children getting loved well.

But because of what I believe to be true about God, I cannot say that there has ever been a human being that God didn’t love every single second.  That He didn’t yearn for.  There has never been a person that was excluded when He said that He longs to be gracious to you.  There has never been a person that God did not die to save.

This shapes the way I understand the world and they way I interact with all people, but I don’t want to direct this thought OUT today, I want to direct in.

You have been loved every single second.

There has never been a second in which you were not loved.
There has never been a circumstance in which you were not loved.
There has never been a thing you did, or a place you went, or a thing you believed that made you unloved, even for a second.

There is no season of hate or anger or disbelief that made God stop wanting you.  You cannot be mean enough to make Him give up on you.  You are not trapped; He will let you go, but He will watch you walk away with great pain, loving you every single second.

In your darkest days, in your deep, endless depression, in your worst, most offensive thoughts, you are loved.

Maybe you are an addict and you’ve known it for a while, and your nights keep getting darker and your mornings more uncertain.  Or maybe you are doing a thing that you swore you would NEVER DO.  Maybe you haven’t changed your mind about it, you still hate it, but you’re doing it anyway, which makes you hate yourself.

You are loved in the middle of that mess.   EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND.

If you are absolutely OVER IT, and life has become, as dear Anne Lamott says, “just too life-y,”  you might be unhappy, unhealthy, unhopeful, and scared to death – but you are not unloved.  You can be un-everything else, but you are not un-loved.

You have been loved every day, every hour, every minute, every second.  You have been loved every heartbeat of your entire life.

When you were abandoned here, you were not abandoned there.  I cannot unpack the problem of evil here, or even fully in my own mind, but I can tell you this:  you were not delivered from all pain, but you were loved through all of the pain.  Every ounce.  You were loved every second.

God compares his love to parent-love.  He compares his arms to the wings of a mother bird, drawing her babies in close to her bosom, warm and safe.  He says he could no sooner forget you than a mother could forget the baby at her breast.  He says “I have loved you with AN EVERLASTING LOVE.”  He says that he wants to give you good things, like Dads want to give their little boys and little girls good things, only better, because God is better than human dads times a billion.

He loves us with parent-love, only purer.  More long-suffering.  This means that, unlike me, He doesn’t ever want to give one of his loved ones away free to a good home when they are being really pig-headed and annoying.  He never loses it.  He never grows tired or weary.

The love that I have for my children is fierce, rabid, overwhelming, and immobilizing.  I love them in a way that doesn’t even make sense.  But even that love is tempered by my own selfishness and humanity – by my need for sleep and food to be a pleasant human being.  My great big love for my kids is tempered by my impatience and my lack of empathy.

But God’s parent-love is not constrained by those things.  His love is constrained by nothing.  His love is unhindered and unstoppable and unfathomable.

The great joy of my life is being this boy’s safe place, the arms that comfort.  I love him, and I could never be close enough for long enough to breathe him in the way I want to.  I love him every single second.  This child of mine is loved EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND.

And so are you.

And so are you.

The Truth Does Not Need Your Help

There is an article circulating, calling into question some of the images and details that have been shared about the persecution in Iraq.  I’m thankful for it, because it’s wise and measured, and because the pursuit of truth is important – but I’m nervous about the public’s response to it.

I am afraid that upon reading that one of the pictures that has been shared dates back to ISIS operations in Syria (not Iraq) last year (not this July), that people will think, “Oh, this has all been sensationalized.  No children are being killed in Iraq, or at least no more than are dying anywhere.  It is not that bad.”

Because it is that bad.  It just isn’t that picture.

I want to grab the shoulders of the people sneaking not-quite-exactly-right pictures into articles and say, “You are damaging your own cause!  You are causing the public to mistrust reports of a very real genocide.   This evil is bad enough without your having to darken it up for public consumption.  The truth does not need your help.”

That’s the crux of it.  The truth does not need your help.  The truth can stand on its own two feet, thank you very much.  The truth does not need you running PR for it.  When you spin truth, it’s not truth anymore.  The only thing you have to do for the truth is tell it.

Regarding Iraq, the truth is that people are being beheaded.  People are being raped, shot, hanged, and crucified.  The truth is that nobody is coming to kill my babies today, and the truth is that Christians in Mosul and Northern Iraq can’t say that – people ARE coming to kill them and their babies.  The truth is that families are fleeing into the mountains and starving to death, ISIS on their heels, coming after them with evil and lies and death in their hearts.  And that truth is enough,  no misplaced pictures of decapitated babies required.

The truth does not need your lying for it.  Will you bring this thought into your speech and your internet sharing and right into the heart of all of your relationships?  The truth does not need my help.

Let us not manipulate by exaggerating our hurt or our oppression.  Black is black enough without us sensationalizing it for shock value.  Be brave, step up to the mic, and tell the truth.  Speak loud and measured and long.  Tell us what happened, and why, and how.  Tell us how it made you feel.  And then step back and let the truth stand.  Discerning, compassionate people will come to stand beside you.

Let us not aim to impress by exaggerating our happiness and our blessings.   Be grateful, step up to the mic, and shout praise.  ”I am blessed.  I am fortunate.  I am excited that this wonderful thing has happened for me.”  Then step back and let the truth stand.  Discerning, joyful people will come rejoice with you.  None of us have the stomach for showmanship; it sours fast.

The truth does not need your shady advertising campaign.  When we hear truth, it grabs us.  I wrote last month about an inner truth cat.  I still think about my inner cat often, because it describes exactly the sensation I have when I hear the truth.  I can also liken it to a bear standing in a river catching fish.  I stand there, letting all the words and all the life flow over me, feeling…feeling…feeling…then I feel it.  THERE.  That’s the true thing.   And I reach out and grab it.  That true thing is what I was after; that’s what will feed me.

One of the books I read to my kids often is Demi’s The Empty Pot.  It’s about a little boy named Ping who grows the most beautiful flowers in China, but can’t get a seed given to him by the emperor to grow.  Everyone teases him when he comes before the emperor, head bent low, with an empty pot.  The emperor then names Ping successor to the throne because Ping had the courage to appear before him with nothing but “the empty truth.”

The empty truth.  I love that.

I want to have the courage to appear before the world with the empty truth.  I want to show up, every day, truth in hand, and let that be enough.  No fluff.  No lies.  No spin to make the dark a little darker, or the light a little lighter.  I want to say what I mean, mean what I say, and stand – head high and unafraid – because the truth is enough.

The only thing we need to do to the truth is tell it.

More from Kate about telling the truth:  ”Honesty

 

When Celebrities Die

I cannot yet tear myself away from the Robin Williams clips, movies, and interviews this week.

When celebrities die we collectively gasp, then mourn.  For a few days we honor their lives by sharing our favorite bits of their work, the ways our lives were shaped by their willingness to live in the public eye.

Death is always mourned by the people who knew the life, and the more intimately we knew the life, the more deeply we mourn it.  Death is the epicenter of a great earthquake, and the mourning goes out in ripples, through the layers of knowing.

The thing about artists is, by definition, they give of themselves intimately in order to do their jobs.  Actors and musicians and writers – they weep, sweat, and bleed their work.

Ernest Hemingway said, ”There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

When actors step into character, they rely on deeply personal things, hidden in the recesses of their minds, the depths of their souls, to authentically portray that sadness you’re seeing on the screen.  They could not do their jobs well if they did not bleed into their art; it would be flat.  Artists voluntarily prick at their own nerves.

This means that when we watch breakthrough performances, we are seeing real tension, real conflict of conscience, real love, real anger, real everything.  Whatever emotion you saw that took your breath – that CONNECTED with you – it was real.

The words in books and poems are real.  The heartbeat in music is real.  Artists live open wide to the world; that’s what makes them artists.  Celebrity, then, adds yet another layer of vulnerability.  Not only do artists draw on intimate personal experiences to bleed into their work – they live in a spotlight.  It’s The Truman Show for real.  We see them grocery shopping and at the beach and at basketball games and breastfeeding their babies.  They live wide open voluntarily for their art, and then again whether they want to or not because of the paparazzi and TMZ and your and my obsession with pop culture.

We KNOW them.  And largely, they allow us to know them.  They give themselves to us.

That’s why celebrity deaths affect us in a way that is often confusing.   It doesn’t seem proportional, at first.  We think, “I didn’t know this person.  They were just an actor, far away, on a screen.  Why do I feel like I am moving through molasses?”

(That’s how I felt when I heard about Robin Williams.  Grief slowed everything down, like it does.  The face Robin Williams made when he threw back his head and laughed was taking up all of my thoughts, so they came slower, like adding an extra space between all the letters on a page.   My mind was filled with Robin, and everything went into slow-motion.)

For a second I thought, “I didn’t know him,” but then I thought – “That’s silly.  Of course I did.”

I saw real joy, real struggle, and real depression, because Robin Williams was an artist.  Something inside of him bled into Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting.  His one little spark of madness, as he called it, poured ALL UP OVER Happy Days and Mrs. Doubtfire, and Aladdin.  Did you know that Aladdin was reportedly disqualified for “Best Adapted Screenplay” because Robin improvised so much of the Genie’s character that they couldn’t even call it a “script?”  He bled his stream-of-consciousness thoughts all over that piece of work and we saw it.  We got to know that bit of him.

We didn’t know all of him, of course.

I love how the French language distinguishes the word “to know.”  There is “savoir,” which is the information-kind of know.  I  know how to ride a bike.  I know how to do algebra.  But they never use “savoir” to describe a person, because people are not facts to be known.  People cannot be read like books.  The French use “connaître,” a to-be-familiar-with kind of know.  I know of this person.  I am ever-growing-in-knowing this person.  But I don’t information-know them.  People are deep and nuanced and ever-changing, every-minute, affected from without and within, like rivers.  We can never know them, we can only keep getting to know them.

We didn’t “savoir” Robin Williams.  We didn’t know everything he struggled with, or loved, or believed, or experienced.  But we “connaître-ed” him.  With every single public appearance, he kept on bleeding self and art for us, and we had the honor to keep getting to know him.

Our collective mourning of celebrities doesn’t mean we disproportionately disvalue the lives of the other people dying around the globe.  We don’t devalue children, or the persecuted, or the cancer warriors, or the noble, heroic, self-sacrificing soldiers.  Those of them we know we mourn hard and long and deep, and those we do not know, we mourn as appropriately as we can – because they matter, and their lives matter.

But the reason we’re all mourning Robin this week is because we KNEW him.

He wept and laughed and bled into his art, and then fame shone a bright light on him so we could all see.

It was an honor to know Robin Williams, and I am so, so grateful that he allowed me to know him, by giving of himself so tirelessly.  He brought incredible joy to my childhood, and I miss him.

 

Look Up (Why I Hated Women’s Ministry)

I was in high school when I started hating women’s ministry.   Not hating – I should say “getting annoyed by.”

I never cared for girls nights, and teas sounded downright dreadful, like being made to sit at the grown-up table after you were finished eating to “listen to us talk.”

In college I started ministering to women, but I still didn’t like women’s ministry.  When I confessed that I didn’t like it, as I sometimes did, I was met with confused or offended looks.  Wait, you’re an RA for 70 girls at Liberty University and you don’t like women’s ministry?  Well, yeah.  I like hanging out and praying/teaching/learning.  I like organizing events, and writing curriculum, and discipling girls who really end up discipling me because that’s how it works – but I don’t like…teas.  Or doilies.  Or the book of Ruth, if we’re being honest.

I didn’t have words to express the rub.  Any time I attended a women’s event, it wasn’t BAD, it just wasn’t…something.  Ten years later, I found some words.

This isn’t a commentary on all women’s ministries, or even the ones I was a part of growing up.   It’s very likely that the problem was me.  But I know that I know that I know I’m not alone here.   So if you like Jesus but don’t like church, or you like ministering to women, but you don’t like women’s ministry, maybe I can help put some words to the rub, maybe wipe the fog off of the glass so we can see what’s really bugging us.

Here are the things that bored and irritated me about women’s ministry:

    • The book of Ruth (she was loyal and diligent and she got her prince!)
    • Proverbs 31 (She got up early!  Taking care of a family and a home is hard and noble!  And look, she handled finances and worked outside of the home, too!  Equality!)
    • Deborah (See?  God uses women, too!)
    • Teas (Jesus loves you!  Pink!  Doilies!  Warm fuzzies!)
    • Self-esteem seminars (You are beautiful just the way you are!  God loves you and that is all that matters!)

Here are the things I love about women’s ministry:

    • The book of Ruth (An allegory of Jesus Christ, who redeems us and comes for us who are abandoned and hopeless.)
    • Proverbs 31 (“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”)
    • Deborah  (God calls us to radical courage, radical trust, radical purpose and obedience.  The battle, victory, and glory are His.)
    • Teas (And by teas I mean barbeques.  This is a personal preference influenced by my distaste for cucumber sandwiches.  If you want to pamper me, do it with burgers.  Or smoothies.  I could get on board with a smoothie-tea.)
    • Missions seminars  (There is a great love burning inside of us.  There is a great task at hand.  Let’s get to work.)

When I take a step back and look, the problem is clear:

I don’t like women’s ministries that are about Christian womanhood.
I like women’s ministries that are about The Gospel.

And not The Gospel*

*for women.

Just The Gospel.

I was tired of looking at myself through a Jesus lens.  I just wanted to look at Jesus.

My freshman year of college (in a discussion with my Dad re: my new Bible Study book) I said, “I don’t mind Esther, but… can we read ROMANS?”  I felt the tension way back then, I just couldn’t articulate it.  I didn’t have those words then, but I have them now.

I am tired of hearing about Christian womanhood.  I want to hear about God.

There are of course issues that are women’s issues.  Womanhood is a sisterhood, and I don’t need my femininity to be ignored; I need it to be seen and addressed and esteemed.  But women’s issues are so, so secondary to gospel issues, because womanhood is so, so secondary to PERSONHOOD.  To child-of-God-hood.

To harp on my “women’s issues” at the cost of ever having time to harp on the glory of God and the gospel of Jesus is to miss the whole darn thing.

So, if you think you don’t like women’s ministry, or church or whatever, maybe you’re just tired of looking at yourself.

If you’re OVER hearing how to be a better person and you wonder what’s wrong with you because hearing that “you are a child of God” doesn’t really move or impress you very much – you’re not alone.  I was there too.   I suspect that we are all just starving for The Main Thing.

If that’s you, be encouraged.  You’re not missing it, you’re getting it.   Just look up.   Find a community that looks, and talks, and points UP.

I love this, from Norman Douty (as quoted in The Complete Green Letters by Miles J. Stanford – a book that changed my life, given to me by a women’s ministry leader that helped me look up)

“If I am to be like Him, then God in his grace must do it, and the sooner I come to recognize it the sooner I will be delivered from another form of bondage. Throw down every endeavor and say, I cannot do it, the more I try the farther I get from his likeness. What shall I do? Ah, the Holy Spirit says, you cannot do it; just withdraw; come out of it. You have been in the arena, you have been endeavoring, you are a failure, come out and sit down, and as you sit there behold Him, look at Him. Don’t try to be like Him, just look at Him. Just be occupied with Him. Forget about trying to be like Him. Instead of letting that fill our mind and heart, let Him fill it. Just behold Him, look upon Him through the Word. Come to the Word for one purpose and that is to meet the Lord. Not to get your mind crammed full of things about the sacred Word, but come to it to meet the Lord. Make it to be a medium, not to Biblical scholarship, but of fellowship with Christ.”

I still struggle.  It’s so easy to forget.  This is a reminder to myself and to my own bored, distracted, divided heart.  Look up.  Stop looking at yourself and your life and your habits through Jesus-lens – and just look at glorious, radical King Jesus.

Survivor Playlist

Contents:

  • 50 songs fit for survivors – spanning generations, moods, and genres.

Uses:

  • 3-minute dance party.
  • Lie motionless on the floor  with the feels.
  • Scream “How you like me now?!” with  The Heavy.
  • Turn it up so that the only thing you can feel is bass.
  • Listen to “It is well with my soul” on repeat until you believe it.
  • Get your Beyoncé on.

 

Enjoy!

***fist pumps around the room to Gloria Gaynor***

Kate

 

You can listen from here, or follow this link to open the playlist in Spotify.

 

 

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

Send Your Roots Down (Surviving The News)

(Image by Michael Halbert)

A person surviving The News is like a growing tree.   You can’t rush the process.  If a tree grows too fast, it will snap – unable to sustain the weight of it all.  A tree can’t grow up without first growing down.  The same is true of you, survivor.  You can’t rush through to the “look how seasoned and wise I am” part; you’re going to have to send down some roots.  If you rush it, you’ll snap.  The News is too heavy.  The weight of the truth – of your new reality – is going to take some time to be able to bear – you’ve got to grow into it, to grow up under it.

That you cannot rush the process is terrible news, because it means you have to sit with the hurt.  You cannot skip this step.  You can delay it – that’s called denial – but you can’t skip it.  If you delay it for a decade, it will find you on the eve of the eleventh year, and it will hurt just as badly as it did on day 1.

But it’s also great news, because the pressure’s off.  You need to grieve, so grieve.  Smash glass vases.  Cry all night.  Throw pillows and remote controls around the living room.  Scream at the sky.  Eat burgers and fries every night for a week.  Or don’t eat anything at all.  You are not unhinged.

You will go through the 5 stages of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  Give each one the time it needs.  Send your roots down.

Eventually, you will have enough roots, and it will be time to push up.  Eventually you will be able to say, “This is how I am stronger.  This is what I learned.  This is how I was carried.  This is how my deep compassion and empathy and mission were birthed: through those labor pains.  Eventually you will be able to grow up through it and see the redemptive purpose – the sustaining hand.  But you can’t rush it.  If you rush it, you’ll snap.

If you are surviving The News, just wake up and show up.  Take your time.  Send your roots down.  Carve out space for yourself.  Just do the next right thing, and remember that sometimes the next right thing is lunch.

 

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

The News (“She Will Never See Like We Can See.”)

This is the last week of #SurvivorSeries.  This week I’m sharing a Survivor playlist (**fist pump**), hosting a giveaway (holla), and we’re talking about surviving “The News.”

There is news, and then there’s The News.

The News is cancer.  Autism.  The affair.  Fired.  The News is cops at your door saying, “There’s been an accident.”   The News comes in all shapes and sizes and it is always catastrophic.  An earthquake in your soul, cracking and upheaving the foundations of your life.  The things you thought would never change – change.

Tomorrow, I’ll share a short post (because when you get The News, you can’t be bothered with things like WORDS or ADVICE) about how to start surviving The News.  Not how to get through or find hope.  Just how to live.

Today, I’m re-sharing a post about a time that I received some News.  It is one of the first posts that ever appeared on this blog – I copy/pasted it from a Word document I’d been using as a journal.  I deleted all the cuss words.  (If you’re getting News right now, email me.  I’ll send you the cussy paragraphs.)

__________________________________

A journal (literally) of the hours, days, and weeks following Madeline’s diagnosis.  That you may share in our (eventual) joy and amazement.

April 17, 2008
“I’m going to be honest with you Mrs. Conner; I’m not sure how well she can see at all.”

Deep breath.

“She has decreased vision; probably congenital.  It’s possibly an optic nerve problem.”

The weight of a continent is on my chest.

“She has a searching nystagmus – the reason her eyes roll is that she’s looking for anything she can see.  I wish I had better news for you.  She needs to go to Emory for further tests.  I’ll make you an appointment for next week, but you need to know that I don’t think time will matter much here.  I’m sorry.”

I must look like a frightened animal.

Wait, what?  You’re telling me there’s something wrong?  Like, really wrong?

Oh, baby.  My baby.
Have you been living in darkness this whole time?
Have you ever seen my face?

The world is spinning and I am sick.

I can’t get out of this office fast enough. Something inside of me has snapped and I am consumed; all I want in the whole world is to get home and hold her.   I don’t want doctors, I don’t want information.  I don’t want encouragement, I don’t want prayers, I don’t want lunch.  I need to get home NOW.  I need to get home and hold her all day long.  I’ll feed her and rock her and sing to her and let her fall asleep on my chest.  I’ll kiss the top of her peach-fuzzy head and tell her everything will be okay.  We’ll take care of those eyes.  Those big, beautiful blue eyes.

Later that evening
There are five days before our appointment at Emory. 120 long hours.  That’s a lot of time to think.  Is it something I did while I was pregnant?  Something I ate, maybe?  Did I not take enough vitamins?

No – I’m assured by a still small voice, “‘Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’  ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned’, said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” John 9:3.

What if it can’t be fixed?  They can fix anything these days, right?  I’m not afraid of surgery or medical bills.  I’m afraid she’s going to have to live with whatever this is for the rest of her life.  In my heart, I think I already know.  I’m really not even worried – I’m just sad for her.  Yes, fear has given way to sadness, and it is unbearable.  It’s not fair.  What did she ever do?  She’s just tiny and small and soft.

God is good all the time.  My life has changed – God has not.  He’s good – and I know that.

Think clearly, Kate.  Worst case scenario: she’s blind.  Helen Keller was blind, Fanny Crosby was blind, Ginny Owens is blind.  Blind women can live full, meaningful lives.  I wonder how hard it is to learn Braille.  Oh, God, don’t let other kids make fun of her.  Please, please don’t let them make fun of her; she’s too sweet.  I will level some idiot fourth grader to the GROUND if he teases my Madeline for this. Oh, Lord, don’t allow her to feel un-beautiful for even a minute.

And here springs my very first positive thought:  This is why God made me to love words, why I learn languages well.  This is why music is so close to my heart.  Why He made me a teacher – so that I can communicate with my daughter in ways that have nothing to do with vision.

After all, this is not a surprise to God.  To us, certainly, but not to God.  Madeline was born this year, this time, to these doctors, and to these parents.  Me and Dan.  I was created to raise her.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16

I’m thinking of Hannah Hurnard’s words.  “…In the life of a child of God there are no second causes, even the most unjust and cruel things, as well as all seemingly pointless and undeserved sufferings, have been permitted by God as a glorious opportunity for us to react to them in such a way that our Lord and Savior is able to produce in us, little by little, his own lovely character.”

It will be glory if, somehow, we live more like Jesus because of this.

April 22, 2008
Optic Nerve Hypoplasia.
“See, she doesn’t blink or squint like most children do when I shine this light in her eyes.  Her optic nerves are 5 percent of normal size.  Think of a garden hose, the smaller the hose, the less water that can pass through it.  Optic Nerves connect her eyes to her brain in the same way; so with underdeveloped nerves there is no way for information to pass from her eye to her brain. Her eyes are healthy; it’s the nerves that caused the vision impairment.”

Let’s cut the doctor speak.  I can read between the lines.  You can say ‘blind,’ I won’t freak out.  My little girl is blind.

“She will never be able to see like you and I can see, but it’s possible that her vision may improve marginally by the time she’s one year old.”

Marginally.  She may be able to tell the difference between day and night?  That’s a pathetic attempt at good news.  Suddenly there is poison in my heart. Bitter, angry poison. God, it’s not fair.  She never did anything wrong.  Why would you make her live with this disability for the rest of her life?  It’s too terrible.  To never see sunrises or sunsets.  She won’t see the ocean. Mountains. Wildflowers.  Waterfalls.  Lightning.  Color.

“There is no known cause for this condition.  It just…happens. And unfortunately, there’s no known cure or treatment either.  Here.”

He hands me a card for CVI – The Center for the Visually Impaired – and for Blind Services in Atlanta.  It didn’t register, I just stared at the card; it felt alien in my hand.  I’m thinking, “I won’t need this card, I don’t need this.”

As we leave the hospital, we start making phone calls.  To all the people who wanted us to let them know right away; they had been praying for us.  How do I even start these conversations?  There’s no good way to do it, no matter how you phrase it, it still punches all the breath out of you.

“Hi Dad, it’s me.  We’re driving home from the doctor now and … she’s blind.”  The words fall like an anchor, an anvil.  I make my way through the long list of phone calls, listening to people on the other end of the line grope for words.   It’s not their fault; there’s nothing to say.

No tears yet, just numbness.  I suppose we’ll just go home, eat supper, and keep living.

One week later
Dan is having a really hard time.  A friend of mine, who works with children with disabilities, says that dads often take it the hardest, because dads are fixers:  heroes and protectors of their baby girls.  I’m sure she must be right, because here is my Dan, a first-time dad smitten with tiny Madeline – and there’s not enough money, enough love, enough medicine in the world to fix it.

We are grieving a loss, and I’m learning that all of the stages of grief apply: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  I don’t really know where I am; I am floating, but Dan is very, very angry.  We were playing around with a conversation book tonight – asking each other funny questions for the sake of lighthearted conversation that had nothing to do with disability income or MRIs.  One of the questions asked “If you had to wear a button on your shirt that summed up your outlook on life in five words or less, what would your button say?”  Dan’s response, without skipping a beat, was “God made my daughter blind.”

Dads definitely take it the hardest.

April 30, 2008
I feel like my life has started over from the beginning and I’m having to re-do all the difficult ‘firsts.’  The first time she cried in her crib AFTER we knew: I couldn’t bear to let her put herself back to sleep.  I rushed in, touched her, and whispered, “I’m here, I’m here. You can’t see me, but Mommy’s right here.”

The first time I left her with my mother-in-law so I could run errands: I gave Sandra a 30-minute crash course, left pages of instructions, and shed tears on the way to the store.  And the first Sunday we walked into church: Everyone knew, and they looked at us.  All the same look: heads cocked a little to the side, sad eyes, grim smiles.  The sanctuary was thick with pity and I tried to make eye contact with as few people as possible.   Only a few decided to say something to us.  Most of them, in hindsight, were well meaning and kind, but they just didn’t understand – and it was awful.

“At least it’s only her eyes.”  Excuse me?

“Well, you know, everything works together for good.”  Your daughter didn’t have to be blind for the good.

“I know how you feel, my nephew is legally blind and he had to have all these surgeries…”  Let me stop you right there.  Your nephew?   He had surgery options? You have no idea how we feel.

And so, I am indebted to a few tender people, full of compassion and wisdom that said helpful things during these first weeks.

My Aunt Jan said, tearfully, “Kate, I’m so sorry.”  And my mother, in response to my statement “I just want to hold her” said, “I just want to hold you.

(The “Prayer Jar” we received as a gift the week we got home from the hospital. A blessing.  How frightened and exhausted do I look?)

May 1, 2008
The next step is an MRI to make sure that the rest of her brain is developing normally.  Apparently a large percentage of babies who have optic nerve problems also have a bunch of related conditions.  Their hypothalamus and pituitary gland are affected.  They have to take hormone treatments for growth hormones, stress hormones, and thyroid regulation.  Sometimes adjacent parts of the brain are missing as well, causing learning disabilities and developmental problems.

Yesterday I spent the whole afternoon on the phone.  A call to the children’s hospital to schedule an MRI.  A call to Emory’s children’s center to schedule the endocrinologist.  A call to social security to apply for disability benefits.  It’s amazing how many questions a man named Douglas can ask about our income, assets, accounts, and medical history.  (In the end, we were denied.)  A call to Georgia Pines, an association that works with disabled children.  Another call to Babies Can’t Wait – a local resource for parents with disabled children. Physical therapy.  Occupational therapy.

I am now officially a project manager.  My PR major is coming in handy after all.  Yes, I was created to raise her.

To be continued…

(9 months later, first steps.)

If you want to fast-forward to the end of the story, here is the most recent post I’ve written about Madeline’s vision:  ”Letter to 22-Year-Old Me”

You can find the things I’ve written about vision loss by clicking the Vision Loss tag here.

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

We Carry Each Other

Originally published October 2013.

This week I gave away my kids’ baby clothes.  12 storage tubs, 180 gallons, 6 years, and approximately 1 million memories worth of baby clothes.

I used to dream about MAKING BANK at a yard sale.  My little first-born, type-A heart wanted to WIN at yard-saling.  I wanted to plan and organize to infinity and beyond: outfits washed and pressed and hanging by size.  Or folded neatly into Zip-Lock bags, labeled and organized by season.  The cutest clothes, the best prices, the best signage.  Lord knows that between Madeline’s wardrobe and our Thomas the Train collection we could fund our retirement.

But then I remembered what it felt like to be twenty-two with a surprise baby and no money and a tiny apartment states away from every single person I knew except for my husband.

What it felt like was numb everywhere, all the time, with a heaping side of Crippling Fear and a tall glass of If I Stop Moving I Will Die.  I remembered the faces of the people who gave me storage tubs and trash bags full of little girl clothes, and of how many seasons I didn’t have to buy winter coats.  I remembered how it felt to be carried along.

It felt like a sisterhood, like hope.

Suddenly making bank at a yard sale didn’t sound so rewarding.

Last month I began to pray for a family.  I asked God to send me a family to bless, to whom I could say, “Here.  You don’t have to buy winter coats this year – or next year – or the year after that.”

Through my friends and some of you lovely readers I found a 16-year-old expecting a baby girl this December.  I found an adoptive mother of 2 baby girls, one of whom is in chemotherapy.  I found a Ukrainian couple, too far from family, expecting a little boy in November.   I found a single mom, a brand new mom in grad school, and a mother of 5 under 7.

I folded and packed 12 storage tubs, 180 gallons, 6 years, and 1 million memories worth of baby clothes, and I shipped off every last onesie – every last dress and little pair of moccasins.

 

I believe that it is more  blessed to give than to receive.
I also believe that giving hurts sometimes, and I think it’s glorious how often blessing and hurt coexist.  That the things that hurt you can crazy-BLESS you.  I do not understand the math of heaven.

Giving away my babies’ clothes didn’t sting, like I was losing something I needed, but it ached, like I was losing something I loved.

The evening after I shipped the first box, I was sitting on the couch feeling achy and nostalgic when I got a message from a blog reader titled “ONH.”

Mercy.  These are my favorite emails, even though they are always fraught with fear and sadness.  This reader told me about her baby, eight months old, who doesn’t see like other babies see.  She asked me about crawling and about introducing solid foods and about how we made it – how we are making it.

I wrote answers that seemed to come from a lifetime ago – things I would have forgotten had I not taken the time and discipline to remember.

I wrote about physical therapy and introducing textures and early intervention.  I remembered how it felt to be twenty-two and to learn that my surprise baby had a surprise diagnosis - how it felt to go from knowing precious little about mothering to knowing Absolutely Nothing.

I remembered the faces of the people that told me they were sorry.  The people that told me I was brave, and that everything was going to be okay.  I remember the people who introduced me to their surprise babies with surprise diagnoses, and the people who carried us.

Friends, we carry each other.  People carried me.  People carry me still.  I carry people, too, which makes my heart feel fuller than about anything else I do on the earth.  (Except for maybe kissing my kids’ dimples and stroking their cornsilky blonde hair.)   I could have consigned all those Ralph Lauren rompers for money, but I would have been poorer for it.

What I’m saying is this: if you have tubs of clothes sitting in your attic or your basement or in the tops of all your closets waiting for an eventual yard sale, maybe start praying for a family to carry.  Then just ask – the need is everywhere and it is great.

If you have a story, tell it.
If you have wisdom, share it.
If you have experience, lend it.
We carry each other along.

#SurvivorSeries

 

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

Surviving a Break Up

There are three people you need in your life to help you survive a break-up.

Adele, T-Swift, and Beyonce.

The end.

Oh, it also helps to have a den of vipers, an includer, and a wise soul that’s been married for a while.

I’ve been the breaker-upper and the break-upee.   Both are awful.

It might be less awful if you are not addicted to being liked, but I have the misfortune of wanting everyone to find me adorable, so even when I knew I was doing a right thing, it still made me beat around the bush, cry A LOT, do things the WORST, HARDEST WAY POSSIBLE, and nearly vomit.

In every break up, I’ve leaned so heavily on these 3 categories of people that if I hadn’t had them, I’d be lyin’ on the cold hard ground.  Oh!  Oh!  Trouble, trouble, trouble.

The Den of Vipers:  These are the people that love and accept your significant other with open arms.  They rejoice and party and double date with you!  And they are so fiercely loyal that after the (non-amicable) break up, they become downright venomous towards the offender.  They are full of love and poison and righteous anger.  They cannot believe his immaturity, his short-sightedness, his selfishness.  If he starts coming around, they strike.  If he tries to be all friendly-friendly, they strike.   Do not call this immature.  It’s a very important part of the process.   One time in college, an offender that shattered my heart into a million tiny pieces came by my room all friendly-friendly asking to borrow a book.  Three of my loyal viper friends were with me at the time.  After I handed the book over, he tried to start a conversation.  He asked, “So, how are you?”   In my head I thought, “REALLY?  We’re doing this?  I don’t even know how to answer that question towards you.”  And while I was thinking, my amazing viper-friend looked at him, then back at me, then back at him and said, “Are we done here?  I think we’re DONE.”   STRIKE.   I still feel a huge surge of love for her when I think about it.

The Includer:   One of the most difficult things about a break up is the time.  What the heck are you supposed to do with all that TIME?  There’s a lull in your day, who do you text?  It’s Friday night, what do you do?  There’s a festival downtown, who do you call?   You can have legions of friends, but after a major break up, all of them still feel a little too far away to call.  You need an includer.  An includer invites you EVERYWHERE.  If you say no seven times, she invites eight.  The includer invites you along to every little mundane piece of the day, so that you always know there’s a place for you.  My friend, Megan, is an includer.  After my break-ups Megan was always saying, “We’re going to the gym, want to come?”  ”We’re walking to the intramural fields, wanna come?”  ”Hey, lets go get Mexican food!”  ”Been wanting to see this movie, when are you free?”   Megan made sure I never had to ask, and she made sure that I never felt left-out.  The minute I began to feel an empty space in my day, I could turn to her and have a friend.

A Wise Soul:  I’ve had the privilege of having quite a few wise souls in my life.  My mom alone has carried me through IT ALL.  50% of this blog is just me taking credit for all her words and hard-learned lessons.  Here is a small sampling of the things my wise souls have told me during a break up that actually helped me.

1.  (When I was the breaker-upper)  “If you sincerely believe that you are not supposed to be together, you have to cut ties completely.  You’re not breaking up because you don’t like him.  You’re not breaking up because you’re not attracted to him.  That means that YOU LIKE EACH OTHER, YOU’RE ATTRACTED TO EACH OTHER, and you have a huge bank of memories and history together.  Nobody, no matter how wonderful or perfect for you will ever be able to compete with that as long as he is still in your life.  They don’t have the history to fall back on because they haven’t had the opportunity to build it.  You don’t know how to be around this boy and not love him.  So you either stay together, or you break up.  But if you really think it’s best to break up, you’re going to have to cut ties.   Neither of you will ever be able to move on if you don’t.”

2.  (When I was the break-upee)  “I am praying 2 things, mostly.  I am praying for peace, and that you both come to believe the same thing about it.   That you’ll both have peace with breaking up, or that you’ll both have peace in staying together.  Either way, no matter what happens, I am praying that your hearts agree, so that you can have peace.”  (Before this wise comment, the idea of me being OKAY with getting broken up with was nowhere on my radar.  It was stay together or suffer.  The idea that I could have peace, and actually personally agree in my heart with a break up so filled me with hope that I’ve never forgotten it.)

3.  (For both)  “Try to love him like Jesus loves him.”   When I first heard this, I wanted to punch everyone and everything in the face.   I know that Jesus loves everyone the most, forever, perfectly, unto death.  So when I wanted to break up with someone, the idea of loving him MORE sounded dumb.  Like, “No you don’t understand,  I’m b-r-e-a-k-i-n-g  uuuuuup.”   And if I was getting broken up with, I wanted to STOP LOVING HIM ASAP so that my heart could SURVIVE.   But I learned in time what the wise souls knew all along:  When you love him like Jesus loves him, you stop loving him like you love him.  The Jesus love takes over.  You stop seeing him as your future, or your ex (or the guy that saved you or broke you or turned your life upside down).  You just see him as a person.  No more, no less.  And you love him the way that you love everyone – the way Jesus loves everyone.  You want good things for him, not because you want to tie your life to his, but because you’re nice and you wish that for everyone.  And when that happens, what do you know, you’re free.

If you’re surviving a break up right now, I’m so sorry.  It’s the pits.  The worst.   I promise that one night in the future, you’ll lay your head on the pillow and realize that you went an entire day without thinking about it.   One day, someone is going to ask how you’re doing and you’ll say “Great!” and there will be no asterisk in your brain that means “Great*  *considering I just got dumped.”  You’ll be just plain, old, regular great.   Lean on your vipers, includers, and wise souls.  Laugh as much as you can, and I’M TELLING YOU:

ADELE.
T-SWIFT.
BEYONCE.

Dance like nobody’s watching,
Kate

 

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.

First Lesson

First Lesson

“Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man’s float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.”

-Philip Booth

(source)
#SurvivorSeries

 

The Survivor Series giveaway is still live!  Share a #survivorseries post for a chance to win $150+ in coffee, music, books, and other survival essentials.  Click here for details.

You guys, I wrote some books!  They’re really good and if you buy them and read them I will bake you cookies.*  You can get it on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores August 1.  

 

*and eat them myself because you live too far away.