On parenting, negotiations with terrorists, and overwhelming grace 

On parenting, negotiations with terrorists, and overwhelming grace 

This parenting gig is kicking my butt. These kids of mine are barbarians (in the most endearing sense of the word). Here I am, during nap-time, gulping down the sage wisdom of Siegel and Bryson in The Whole- Brained Child and rehearsing using my hand to model the upstairs brain and downstairs brain to my children so that they might get a better grasp on their flimsy emotions. An hour ago, I was yanking my almost three year old into the shower to clean up his poop-smeared body, dumping his poop-drenched sheets into the washer, and wiping off his poop-painted wall for the fourth time this week. The kid’s supposed to be potty trained. 

Yesterday, my sweet neighbor observed my daughter’s thirty minute melt-down in our yard and said, “I think we need to work with her on these fits.” 

Yes. Yes, we absolutely do. And we need to quit having our walls painted with poop.  But I’m wondering how? Where is my dang handbook?  How in the world do I raise these volatile little maniacs into kind, loving, Godly members of society who are not going to get kicked out of school or arrested? Will they ever keep their clothes on? Will they ever eat a full meal? Will they ever actually pet the cat rather than yank her tail? Will they  ever learn to listen? Will they ever respond to direction? Will they ever sleep through the night? Will I ever parent well enough to feel like a competent human being?

I believe that my experience is not unique in this crazy venture called parenting, though it feels incredibly unnerving and isolating.  When we moms get gut-honest with each other and share our darkest, slimiest, most downstairs-brained moments with one another, we breathe a collective sigh of solidarity and recognize that we can march on in our journey of raising little humans. 

I have never in my life encountered a responsibility so humbling, so exhausting, so disgusting, and so life-giving. 

When these little barbarians that I birthed take off their monster masks for a few moments, look up into my eyes and say, “mom, you’re the best,” I’m reminded that God’s grace is filling in the gaps where I am falling short. 

When the three of us huddle in our blanket fort on my daughter’s bed as we draw out bedtime, I can’t imagine a single place that I would rather be.  

When we are cuddled together, belly-laughing to our favorite books, I believe that I tap into the laughter of God.

When I feeling like I am completely done with fighting this battle for my life, wanting to yield to the pain and illness and throw in this proverbial, worn-out, thread-bare towel, those tiny, sweet feet thud-thud-thud on the carpet into my dark room, and in an instant, I remember why I fight this battle. I don’t want to miss a second with them. Those wild, crazy terrorists are my beloved children, and no matter how many poop-smeared, hissy-fit filled days we encounter, I am better with them than I was before they came along. 

Thank God for grace as we climb this steep mountain of parenthood. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is for the full-of-heart, and it fills my heart to overflowing. I march on in this journey wielding as many tools as I can carry, but knowing that grace is really what carries us. 

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Looking for Easter

Looking for Easter

 

“Calvary is Judo. The enemy’s own power is used to defeat him. Satan’s craftily orchestrated plot, rolled along according to plan by his agents Judas, Pilate, Herod, and Caiaphas, culminated in the death of God. And this very event, Satan’s conclusion, was God’s premise. Satan’s end was God’s means. “

Peter Kreeft, 1986

I am on my second Lenten season of reading through Bread and Wine, an incredible collection of writings by ancient and modern Christian writers, philosophers, activists, theologians, and leaders.  I am in love with my mornings of directed readings.  The book is broken up into six sections:  Invitation,  Temptation, Passion,  Crucifixion, Resurrection, and New Life.  It has 72 articles, and I am slightly behind because I usually marinate on one article a day.  72>40, so I need to step it up, but I feel that I am drinking from a fire hydrant as I soak up the wisdom of those who know a heck of a lot more than I do.

The quote is an excerpt from today’s reading, and I have always found something wonderfully exhilarating about what Kreeft terms “Christian Judo.”  Jesus remarkably used the enemy’s power against him, in that he willingly stepped in as the passover Lamb, wielding the keys to the kingdom.  This is the hope that surfaces when it seems that all hope is lost.  This is the shift that I had the privilege of experiencing in the heart of my three-year-old as we watched Aslan willingly lie down on the stone table as the ice queen slaughtered him in the Disney rendition of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.   I told my daughter ahead of time not to worry, that Aslan would come back to life and “save the day.”  She can watch any movie as long as she knows that the good guy will save the day in the end.  Can’t we all?

In the depth of the dark night of Aslan’s slaughter, as Lucy and Susan were weeping into the shaved, cooling skin of their murdered beloved Aslan,  Lily sought reassurance. “Mommy, you said that he would save the day.  When will he? Are you sure?”

I responded, “Wait for the sun to rise, sweetie.  The stone table will break, and he will be alive again to save the day.”

Her anticipation was palpable.  My daughter was longing for Aslan to cancel out the evil magic that had rendered him the lamb to be slaughtered on Edmund’s behalf.

We both exhaled sighs of elation and relief as we saw Aslan’s profile rise over the stone tablet with the rising sun.  This was Lily’s first portrait of kingdom judo.  And this is the beginning of perfect love casting out fear for my three-year-old.

The enemy’s power is used to defeat him. Not only is the enemy defeated, but his own efforts to destroy us are thrown back in his face as the means by which our redemption is made possible.   Only God can do that. It is the greatest twist in the history of time. The death that the enemy thought would undo all of God’s plan was actually the death that opened up the opportunity for death to be crushed and turned on it’s head. This is the fragrant essence of hope. This is why we hope. In our seasons of death, we rejoice, because we know kingdom Judo. God’s secret weapon, His trump card, is always safe in His hand, and He will play it when the enemy is finished with all of his moves and thinks arrogantly that he has won the game.

This sickness, these shortcomings, and these areas of brokenness are indeed the undoing of me. And in this undoing, I am made whole because the ends becomes the means to God’s redemptive, overarching stunning plan of life destroying death. We don’t have all the answers, but we have the final answer. Life wins. Death dies. The love that surrenders to death actually releases the power that dethrones death. No fear is needed. Fear is negated and made obsolete.

We can exhale the fear of death’s finality when we see the cresting of our King on Sunday morning as He pulls out His trump card,  His deeper magic, and says, “See?  I hold the keys to life and death.  Why were you afraid, beloved?”

And I sigh with my daughter, able to freely take a deep breath for the first time, releasing it in trust of a Lord who breathes life into death, into me.

When Love Invades

When Love Invades

“The only way to avoid brokenness is to avoid love.” Ann Voskamp

My life was much simpler before I surrendered myself to love.   I felt in control. There were fewer risks. I seemed to dodge profound suffering by remaining disconnected. I could focus on tasks, schedules, rules, and navel-gazing. I filled all the relationship-holes with to-do lists and perfectionistic standards.   My walls were solid, thick, and sky-high. I called them boundaries, but they created an air-tight fortress. I pushed away the nagging inkling that my fortress was actually a prison. I ignored the signs that in my effort to avoid the risk of suffering, I was creating a suffocating environment of agonizing emptiness. I believed that I was protecting myself, but I was actually killing myself by starving my spirit of the community that it so desperately needed.

Without the influx of unsolicited grace, I would have remained in this emotional paralysis, pretending that I was safe and sound in my isolation. In the way that only the King of love can accomplish, love nudged its way into my fortress. I unassumingly yielded to its influence and slowly allowed it to help me transform my fortress into a lovely little cottage with a white picket fence. As I had feared, love came with hurt and suffering. I also discovered that love is profoundly worth the suffering that holds its hand. You cannot enter into love without the risk of loss, and this is terrifying. My fortress came down. I chose to respond to the unsolicited grace of love, and I risked everything. To my surprise, I gained the keys to the Kingdom by choosing love. Love became the key that unlocked my heart of fear and darkness. With the turn of the love in keyhole of my heart, the light of true life invaded and allowed heaven into my earthly existence. Where my world was flat, it gained dimensions. Where it was shades of grey, it flooded with brilliance and color.

It is terrifying to step out onto the uncertainty of letting ourselves be known and caring for others. It is terrifying, but it is absolutely what we were created to do. We were created to love and to receive love, imaged after the Triune God, the perfect picture of inter-dependent community.

C. S. Lewis says, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.” Yet. He. Loved. He loved and lost, and he would have done it again. Jesus loved, and He was crucified. “There is no fear in love” because love is the code that breaks fear and death.

Turning Our Eyes Upon Jesus

Turning Our Eyes Upon Jesus

The last few weeks have been difficult.  Last October was a bad-health-month (like a bad-hair-day, only like 1000 times worse), and it seems that this October followed suit.  Maybe my illnesses have least favorite seasons.  Being sick feels manageable some fraction of the time, but over the past month, it has NOT felt do-able.  Yesterday was particularly bad, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I felt poured out, wrung out, and blown-dry with a hair dryer.  I had what felt like nothing left.  My husband was shivering in bed with 102-degree fever, sputtering, “Is this what chills feel like?” My children were acting like the three-year-old and two-year-old that they are, and I was dancing on the impatient side of parenting.  I was not savoring each moment with them, that’s for sure.

Bed time is sacred time at our house.  We read, rock, and sing about Jesus. The kids have special song requests, each one gets his and her own time in the rocking chair with mom, and I get to sniff their sweet little babyish heads before bed (I think that baby head-sniffing works better at calming my adrenaline rushes than any medication that I have found).  In between Jesus songs, my daughter usually comes up with deep questions that I am not prepared for, like, “Mommy, what is death?”, or like, “How is Jesus going to come out of my heart so that I can sit on His lap and rub His beard like I rub daddy’s beard?”. I stutter and stammer for a few minutes, and then God in His wisdom usually helps me communicate some little nugget of truth that hopefully her three-year-old mind can comprehend.  She deems my response acceptable, closes her eyes, and settles her fair curly head into the bend of my arm, safe and comforted, trusting that she knows enough now to rest for the night.

Bedtime last night did not feel sacred. I was an unholy terror, and I hurried and scolded my kids, stretched too thin in all angles.  I just wanted to go to bed and have the day over. I was hurting physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and I was done fighting.  Rocking a child, however, seems to be the antithesis of hurry.  The act of sitting in glider with my son and singing a JJ Heller lullaby was enough to snap me out of my impatient self-centered focus. I pleaded with God to help me to be present with my children, at least for the final few minutes of their day. I sniffed his freshly washed hair for a couple seconds longer, and laid him in his crib with his blessing: “May the Lord bless you and keep you…”.

My daughter met me at the chair, and asked for the Jesus song. Which Jesus song?  You know, mom, the one where Jesus is REALLY BIG.  Where His face shines.  I sing the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, and she sings the chorus with me word-for-word.  After the song, my big-hearted prophetess child says with the concern and agony of a 25-year-old, “Mom, why does it feel like Jesus isn’t here?  If it is so dark in this world, and Jesus is light, He can’t be here, can He?  And Jesus is too big to be in my heart.  He’s not in my heart.  He’s too big.  He would break my heart.  Is Jesus not here?”

On this night, October 31st, a night of darkness, when barely three-year-old daughter questions the existence of her Savior, my throat swelled, and my eyes filled, and I said, “Baby, I know how you feel. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like Jesus is here, but He is.  I promise. He promises.  And it is dark, but His light is here.”  I said a few more things.  I felt a lot more things. She asked a few more despairing questions, and she finally settled into the tension of not seeing yet believing.  She was okay.  Jesus was with Her.  She could rest.

I laid her down, tucked her princess comforter around her tiny body, blessed her, prayed over her and her brother, closed the door, and sobbed.  OH, I know how she feels, but I never imagined that she would feel this so soon.  But God met me in her questioning.  In this dark night, full of pain in all forms, God met me through the need of my darling daughter. He answered my despairing questions through my own mouth as  I answered her despairing questions.  We will keep trusting.  He is present. He is good. He loves us.  He is sovereign.  My sweet dreamers will learn to trust and hope, as I am learning to trust and hope, in the One who is present, gentle, and faithful. We can’t always see, but we know because we have seen undeniable manifestations of His goodness.  We therefore

Turn our eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.  (Helen H. Limmel, 1922).

When You are Broken and Untouchable

I am typing this post with about 30 percent vision in my left eye, fingers trembling because of my body’s crazy reactions to Percocet, and with a mid-grade fever.  Do you want a taste of what an end-of-the-world outbreak might look like?  Brush shoulders (or share some breathing space) with someone with EKC. Epidemic Karatoconjunctivitis is a freak version of pink eye, completely viral, resistant to all antibiotics and virtually any form of treatment.  In most of its victims, it attacks both eyes and shoots tiny razors into your corneas until you scream and run, begging someone to dig your eyes out of your head with melon scoopers (Well, at least that is my response).

Our youngest began his journey with this beastly mutation of pink-eye on the first day of our vacation, roughly two and a half weeks ago.  I watched as his eye disappeared. His cheek and eyelid slowly swelled to the point that they swallowed up his poor flaming red eye. 17 hours away from home and with no out-of-state insurance coverage, we sent pictures to every medical professional we knew. We began with eye drops, to no avail.  We progressed to oral antibiotics and watched the poor baby continue to suffer.  We breathed a corporate sigh of relief as we cross state lines back into our home state and promptly took him straight to the doctor the day after we arrived home.

After unnecessary delay, they admitted the poor child to the pediatric unit of our hospital with a diagnosis of pre-septal cellulitis, and a plan to run a round of IV antibiotics.  Evidently, you don’t mess around with eyes and babies.  I am glad.  I felt better to have him under more consistent care.  In addition, giving a child under the age of two burning steroid eye drops is not a feat for the faint of heart (or weak of arm muscles).  By this point, my husband had the infection in both eyes.  He spent the night in the hospital with our baby, while I stayed at home with our three-year-old daughter. My heart was ripped in half to leave our sweet little one, but his daddy was taking great care of him.  And I got to cuddle with my darling girl for two nights in a row.

My infection began 11 days ago, and of course, as evidenced clearly in the history of our family illnesses, I had to get hit the hardest.  As pointed out by our eye doctor and good friend, there is no “normal progression of an illness” for me.  I am so far beyond normal that no one knows what to expect when I get sick.  Our daughter’s eye began to get pink when my eyes started to manifest symptoms, and thankfully, hers has been the most mild case of the family.

It has been documented that in several other countries, EKC is a category IV communicable illness where all cases must be reported and quarantined for 2-3 weeks.  Our country is not as strict, but it probably should be.  You know that no one wants you around when the eye doctor doesn’t allow you to sit in his waiting room, and your PCP sweeps you back before you can say hello when you walk into her office.  I would say that it makes me feel special, but that would be the wrong word.  Talk about feeling like an “untouchable!” Maybe this is what leprosy felt like.  Thank goodness, this diagnosis only secures a quarantine of 14 days!

The day that I crossed the line into end-of-the-world-epidemic-level-scared was the day that my eyes started to BLEED.  When you start crying blood, you start envisioning all of those apocalyptic contagion movies that you saw as a teenager and young adult, or start wondering if you are becoming a zombie who may develop an insatiable craving for brains when she wakes up in the morning. Please note, no one else in my family had the pleasure of blood for tears.  That was unique to me.  About three days ago, I crossed another line.  I decided at that point that I could no longer look in the mirror without a precursor of a calm, encouraging pep-talk that that deformed, swollen-faced person with blood-red eyes is not an accurate representation of normal Megan, and than in a few weeks, I will hopefully have human eyes surrounded by peach, healthy skin, not purple, inflated rubber.

In seriousness, this has been a scary time. Vision is important. Uncontrolled infections are scary. It difficult and painful to be cut off from the rest of the world, even if it is for a couple of weeks.  I would never blame people for staying away. I would stay away also if I were in their shoes.  Let me not forget to mention that there have been a few generous spirits who have braved our quarantined home and loved us by bringing in happy meals for the kids and groceries.  We’ve even had a couple people drive us places, which was really risky on their part.  We’ve enjoyed a couple fun games of “ding-dong-ditch” as people have brought groceries and left them on the door-step.  We have been loved well by some special people in the midst of our crisis as “untouchables.”  It causes me to step back and wonder if I would love well in the midst of potential risks that loving well might hold.  I hope that I would.  I hope that I would step out of my safe comfort zone to love those leprous ones in our community who might “contaminate” us.  I hope that I could look the disfigured in the eyes and say, “I love you and am here for you.” I am infinitely thankful for those in our community who have bravely stepped past the boundaries and loved us in our potentially contagious brokenness. They have housed the spirit of Christ for us.

It is lonely and isolating to be sick, broken, and untouchable.  And just another opportunity to become one of the “least of these.”  Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to identify as one in such deep, desperate, agonizing need.  Help me, one day soon, to be in a position to be Jesus to those whom society deems untouchable.

 

The Adventure at the Ocean with POTS and Tots

Once upon a time, I understood a certain concept in theory.  Today,  I understand it fully in the experiential sense:  A vacation with two toddlers is, indeed, not a vacation.  In fact, parents need a minimum of a week of recovery time in order to heal from the traumas incurred during said “vacation” with tiny tyrants who have been so rudely jerked out of their routine and thrown into a foreign (and often very wet) environment.

I had this crazy dream that we would all just be relaxing on a nice white-sanded beach with clear blue ocean waters lapping at our little toes, and we would giggle and splash and build colossal mideival sand castles, and go skipping down the beach hand-in-hand until we all tumbled down in rapturous laughter and delight.   I think that I stepped out of the realm of idealistic into the realm of psychotic-sleep-deprived-desperate-for-a-break-mommy-brain.

Hold your breath.  I have some shocking news for you all:  It did not go as I had planned.  Child one did not like the ocean for a while.  Child two loved the ocean and promptly got a nasty eye infection on the first day.  Mommy (sometimes known by daddy as child number three) forgot that she needs to carry around oxygen tanks, which are not conducive to any sort of happy family frolicking and certainly not ocean and sand-proof.

In addition, our 17-hour-overnight drive did not involve much sleep for anyone involved.  Our eight-passenger rental van did NOT comfortably seat 8 passengers when three of those passengers are well over 250 pounds and two of those passengers are in car seats that take up one and a half seats.  And who willingly squeezes into the middle seats in the back except for the moms of the bunch who are so adapted to sacrificing themselves that they don’t even register the horrific sacrifice of sanity and overall proprietary ownership of our bodies that is involved in the death-sentence that is the middle seat of a minivan wedged between a teenager and a toddler’s car-seat for 17 hours?  Over the course of our over-night drive across Oklahoma and Texas, I bargained with God quite frequently.  Blood, tears, and sweat were shed (maybe not blood–I can’t remember).  Body odors were rampant (remember, two teenagers).  I had brought a book to read, not considering the fact that there would not be nearly enough space to even open the book in my squished little lap.  I don’t know what I was thinking anyway:  I had tiny children to entertain.

We made it to the ocean at 10 AM, after an agonizing 17 hours .  Our rental house did not allow check-in until 3 PM.  We had with us an almost 2-year-old, a 3-year-old, a 12-year-old, and a 19-year-old.  And they were DELIRIOUS.  I was just a little nutty myself (understatement).  It has been a long time since I have seen my beloved ocean, but that day at that time, really, all I wanted was a bed.  We dug our swimsuits out of our shredded car-top-carrier (that will teach us to buy cheap travel equipment), and loaded our arms with buckets, umbrellas, swim diapers, chairs, oxygen tanks, power aides, juice boxes, books (haha), and like 85 towels. (Overkill much??).  An hour later, we were settled on a beach full of 500 other families, none who spoke our language.  The baby-children were begging for their pacifiers, and the adult-children were begging for a bed.  And thus began our beach adventure.

It really truly got better from there. We survived the drive, the first interminable day in the sun resulting in at least second degree burns for all the adults (if only we put sunscreen on ourselves the way that we lather up our babies!!!), and unloading our ridiculously overpacked van-load into the ant-infested rental house.  We slept well that night, and the next day we found a much more calm, sparsely populated beach access on the other part of the island.  We packed more appropriately (No one stumbled and fell under the load of the beach toys, floats, and chairs on the way to the ocean).  We feasted and Whataburger while watching the beautiful undulation of the very blue waves.  The children and daddy did walk up and down the shore collecting shells for Grandma and Grandpa, and mommy got a chance to sit with her babies in the shallow surf.  There were moments of pure bliss interspersed between the realities of going to the beach with two toddlers and a disabling chronic illness.  85 percent of the time I was keenly aware of the fever that kept me shivering even while sitting in the humid 90-degree beach air.  I had to chose between breathing well and going out into the ocean with the kids, and sometimes I chose the ocean.  The walk from the boardwalk to the beach was agonizing, and there were moments where I wasn’t entirely sure that I could stay upright long enough to get from one place to the other.  I tried to communicate these discomforts as infrequently as possible so that no one would feel unnecessarily burdened or inconvenienced by my disability.  They had enough to worry about.

Along with my idealistic idea of what the beach with toddlers would look like, I also clung to an idealistic idea of what the beach with POTS would look like.  I was convinced that the ocean breeze, the warm sunlight, and the salt water would be like a salve to my weary and broken body.  I thought that somehow, magically, my illness would dissolve into the sand under my feet as I walked down to the ocean.  I learned that the beach isn’t really that magical.  It was wonderful, still as beautiful as ever.  The ever-present rhythm of the ocean waves soothed my anxious heart.  The warmth of the sun did indeed soften my spirit.  The joy that my children communicated as they chased the waves and let the waves chase them back was unprecedented by any joy that I’ve seen them experience before.  I was so glad to be there.  And I was still sick.  I was shivering, gasping at times, dizzy constantly, and utterly exhausted.  My bones and joints screamed while I watched my family play happily.  I had to decline certain activities because I couldn’t move.  The beach did not fixed me, but it offered moments that breathed life into my heart and soul.  It gave my children fresh experiences and family memories that were worth the hours of travel and blistering sunburns.

When describing our trip, I told people that I hadn’t decided if it was worth it yet.  I think that I’ve decided.  It was worth it.  It was worth all of it.  It was worth it to see the delight in those little eyes.  It was worth it to sit on the ocean’s edge holding my babies.  It was worth it to watch my sweet husband tenderly hold my daughter’s hand as he helped her pick out the perfect sea shells and carry my rambunctious son into the deeper ocean because he just couldn’t get enough of the pounding waves.  We may re-evaluate the eight-passenger van deal for next time and who driving over night thinking that the babies gonna sleep, but our souls needed a fresh glimpse of majesty, glory, and connectedness.  And what’s a good story without some dramatic elements anyway?

 

 

 

Even in the Trenches

We are just emerging out of the witching hour for parents of toddlers as five PM approaches.  It is Friday, the day on which we parents take the final agonizing steps to the finish line of the week, only to discover that the weekend days are a repeat of the weekdays.  No one sleeps in.  Everyone is actually even more cranky than they were during the week, if that is even possible.

The family has passed around an anachronistic virus in the middle of summer, starting with the three-year-old last week. The one-year-old caught it a few days later, and now the husband, the worst patient of all, has contracted the contagion.  My other half is pathetic, and his fever is no higher than mine is on my best days.  One would think that chronic illness would give you more compassion on those who are sick.  Instead, it makes me want to scream at my husband, “Suck it up!! I have to suck it up everyday of my life!! Take tylenol, and get your rear-end off that couch, soldier! These kids can’t fend for themselves!”  I remind myself that this is not how Jesus would act, and this is irrational rage that I should contain and not communicate.  In no way could that spoken diatribe enhance my marriage.  So I bring him medicine and a cup of water and ask how his head is feeling.  I pray for more compassion and repent for my critical and unloving spirit.  (Other days, I may scream his head off.  I’m not perfect, jeeze!!)

I think that I feel particularly awful today. The pain is just a little bit more acute.  I’ve hit the floor a few extra times.  Walking across the living room feels a bit like running a marathon, and my heart may pound out of my chest with this tachycardia.  I may feel worse than usual, but I’m never sure anymore.  I may feel this bad every day, but the brain fog of POTS blessedly helps me forget my agony.  I try not to think about how bad I am feeling.  It is pointless.  I try not to think about the possible reasons.  Over the past two years, that has proved futile.  I employ my militant strategies with myself rather than spewing them at my poor sick husband.  “You’re not as sick as you think you are.  It’s all in your head.  Suck it up.  Get off the couch and do something productive.  This is your life. What are you going to do?  Cry a river of tears every day that you think you are dying?  You’ll never get anything done, and you will be super pathetic.”

The late afternoon, the close of the witching hour, carries with it a torrential downpour.  It is majestic.  I call the unruly, wild, maniac children over to the window. They are both in t-shirts, diapers, and no pants.  Who needs pants when you are under four and running circles in your living room?  They stand on the sofa, feet firmly planted in daddy’s calves watching, captivated by the river of tears pouring from the darkened heavens.  It really is amazing.   Later, we find out that we got almost eight inches that night.  The short time frame in which it accumulates is the kicker, though.  It is like God is dumping olympic-size swimming pools down onto our house!   Relieved that the kids are occupied for a few seconds, I sit,  trying to lower my heart rate below 100 bmp for a few minutes.  A friend texts, offering to pick up some chicken noodle soup for our patient and dinosaur nuggets for the kids.  They are at Walmart, and when your pastor husband gets sick on a Sunday, the whole church obviously knows.  I am learning to accept help, and I tell her that we would love for them to bring some soul food by the house.  They even are braving this torrential emptying of the heavens for the feeding of my family.  I am humbled, and fight off the shame of the needing help.

I look out the window at the rain still pouring, and I see a golden glow lighting the lines of water driving from the sky.  The sun has broken through, not weakly, but with such fervor that it is as light as a cloudless day outside.  For a few seconds, I ponder how odd this phenomenon seems, and then I remember the whole science of prisms and rainbows.  My children have never seen a real rainbow, so I squeal with childish delight and drag them, neither one wearing pants, out through the garage, into the pouring rain.  This is a bad idea, my rational side is warning me.  This will trigger a major POTS flare-up. Don’t get too excited.  Don’t walk that fast.  Don’t you dare go all the way down the driveway to the road. You shouldn’t walk that far. That’s why they got you a scooter.  I disregard the rules. Majestic acts of God trump the rules of chronic illness, and in a split second decision, I decide that this one is worth paying for physically for the rest of the night if I have to.

My son runs down the driveway to the side of the road to wade in the river of rainwater washing down the gully.  My daughter tentatively tiptoes down the driveway with my prompting with the promise of a view of the most beautiful rainbow she’s ever seen.  I reach the end of the driveway with my little girl’s hand clutching mine as she prepares to glance at her first real rainbow.  My not-yet-two-year-old son is yards away splashing with the abandon that only a one-year-old can muster, and I suck in the fresh air sharply (maybe with a bit of a gasp-wheeze, but still with awe).  My babies and I look to our left to see the thickest, most brilliant rainbow that I have ever had the privilege to witness.  My sweet girl grasps tighter onto my fingers and says, “AHHHH!! Mommy, it is just beautiful! It’s gorgeous!”  In instant, she lets go and races after her brother, splashing gleefully away.  We watch the rainbow through to the end of its life and beg for it to stay as it disappears from one end of the sky to the other as the sky grows dark again and the rain starts to sting our skin with its increased power.  My children run back to the refuge of my arms as we hurry inside, and our friends pull into our driveway with their generous food offerings for the sick and the hungry.  I apologize for my pantless children and happily accept dinner.

As they hurry back to their car and drive away, my babies and I watch them and the rain from the refuge of the garage. The rainbow is seared in my vision for a bit longer before it fades in my mind as it did from the sky.  We climb the steps and return inside to daddy with his chicken noodle soup.

And God whispers to my soul, “My child, even in the trenches, life is beautiful.”