Saturday, November 22, 2014

There's no place like home

A few nights ago, I was lying on my back on my bed, watching Grace search the room for her "sparkly" shoes.  Grace and I were in Massachusetts with Brian and the family, and were sleeping in Brian's room, on the huge California king sized bed that will one day belong to Brian and I.

While Grace searched, I jokingly asked her, if she found them, would she put them on and tap her heels together?

"There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home."

Grace smiled sadly, "Aw, mom..."

"The thing is," I pondered, "where would we end up if we did have ruby slippers that would take us home?"

She answered me, muffled, from under the bed, "I know, eh? "

She stood up, shoes in hand.

"People say, 'Home is where your people are,' but seriously, what does that even mean?" Grace rolled her eyes as she slipped her shoes on and grabbed her purse.

What does that even mean?

When your people are spread across the country, across the continent, across the sea?  When you have "people" that you love with all your heart and haven't even met yet? 

In a very real way, I can understand how the presence of people make a place feel like home.  I feel a deepening attachment to Darren, to his parents, to his places.  The beach Grace will jog on, the bus she'll take into Great Yarmouth, the place Darren worked at, the people she loves there. This past week the museum that Darren worked at, Yesterday's World, shut down. I felt oddly sad.  Of course, I had hoped to visit it when I went to visit Grace and Darren, but it's more than that. Darren's pictures of empty shelves and hollow rooms leave me feeling forlorn. 

There are so many people, though. So many places. So many homes.  I feel more and more at home here in Baldwinville, in the house, with this family.  On Sunday, I sat with Grace in church and pointed out people that I knew, names and everything. There are more every week.  I am even learning which kids belong to which parents.  It's a start.

The fact remains that, should Grace and I find a pair of magical ruby slippers that could take us home at a few heel clicks, we're not sure where we'd end up.

It's an odd feeling. 

The interesting thing, though, is that as we become more and more aware of our tremendous blessings, and draw closer and closer to the God of our sorrows AND our joys, home is becoming less about place, and less about people. I think the destination of our ultimate journey is to understand and embrace the fact that home is where our Lord is, our Love, our Jesus, our God.  And we fully believe that the Spirit of our Lord God makes His home within us.  And so, home is wherever we are.

Home is where there is comfort, familiarity, rest. Home is where being authentically ourselves is safe, normal, welcomed. Home is where, in the warmth of love, there is freedom to see ourselves as we are, to ponder and pray and confess and to be transformed into our whole selves, in the image of the One whose love makes home real.

There is a beautiful peace that comes from the awareness that home is within me, where Jesus is. Scripture calls it the peace that surpasses human understanding. 

It is an even lovelier joy to be able to lead my daughter into this awareness, to send her into the wide world knowing that her base camp, her stronghold, her home fires burn within her, in the Person of Jesus. 

Our earthly homes may be a bit of a fluid concept right now, but our true home is as solid and as real and as ours as the God who is decorating it with His love and beauty. 

There is, truly, no place like home.

Denial. Not just a river in Egypt...

It's Saturday.  Grace is leaving on Tuesday.  I wish I could say that I have been busy preparing her favorite foods, spending evenings going through old pictures with her and weeping into her baby blankets as I pack them away, along with all the sweet memories, to bring them to Massachusetts with me.

Yeah. No.

Don't get me wrong. We've spent every moment possible together, which thankfully has been a lot of moments.  But I have been tired, and cranky. My bladder is constantly stabbing me with a hot poker. My eyes hurt. It took me two days to recover from a beginners yoga practice that my body is used to.  We've eaten hamburger/tomato macaroni two days in a row (tonight will be three).  I've been napping, and I haven't had to nap in a long time.

In short, I am in denial.  Denial. Not just a river in Egypt!

Har har.

To be fair, I don't choose denial. Denial chooses me.  My brain sees something too big to handle and says, "Nope. Not doin' it."  My body, expecting the worst, protests, "But, but..."

I just go along for the ride.

I do have peace, though. That means everything to me. I have learned over the years not to try to control my body/mind/heart's reaction to difficult things.  I instead choose the way I behave in times like this, the words I say, the thoughts I think.

I am happy, and sad. I am excited, and fearful of the pain of letting go.  I feel stronger than ever, and pathetically weak.  I feel whole, and yet broken.  I am going through something that millions of parents have gone through before me, and I am on a uniquely personal path.  My body hurts, my heart aches, my eyes sting, and yet yesterday when we bought a lovely green coat for Grace to wear in England, I wanted to squeal with glee.  It's gorgeous. She's gorgeous. It's all gorgeous.

One day at a time.

Monday, November 10, 2014

On booked flights and a new kind of grief

On Saturday, Grace booked her airline ticket to Norwich, England.  She is leaving on November 25th.  Landing in Amsterdam, catching a connecting flight to Norwich and arriving early on the 26th.  She is going home, her new home, in Scratby, Great Yarmouth.  In England.


While Brian helped her book the flight, I sat at the kitchen table with them, absently leafing through a catalogue, listening, praying for things to go smoothly, and hurting.  When it was all done, we smiled at each other, relieved.  I smiled too, genuinely. And hurt.

Grace, Ashleigh and Amanda had plans to go to a roller rink/games place, and Brian was taking me out to supper so I headed upstairs to get ready.  I was changing my shirt when it happened.  I broke.  It felt like I crumpled inside. I buried my face in the shirt that I was holding, and cried.  I cried into my black jacket too.  And into a pillow. And a towel, as I washed and dried my puffy face. Then I cried when I saw how puffy and red my face was.  Stupid face.

The feeling that was washing over me, in waves, was familiar. It was grief. It was the same pain that I felt when my mother died.  C. S. Lewis opens his book, A Grief Observed, with this quote - "No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness..." I thought of this quote as I realized that the pain that I felt was grief, the sorrow of losing a precious aspect of my relationship with my daughter, a loss that no amount of blessing can counter, a loss that is real and deep and profound, and wildly painful.  This is what it felt like.

I'm not sure what happened then, my memory is a bit fuzzy.  I remember Brian coming in and hugging me for a long time.  I remember Grace coming in, too. She wrapped her arms around me and we just stood in a quiet embrace.  I resisted the urge to pat her back and comfort her, to reassure her that I was fine, that it was nothing.  I wanted to honor her strength and faith, to trust it.

I told her, "I can't wait for Heaven, when happy things are just happy, with no sadness attached." 
She laughed. We have talked about this before.  The pain of wonderfulness.  The sorrow of the blessings. The meaning of bittersweet.

Grace and I have spent hours talking about this.  I haven't written much about it because this is her journey, and it hasn't been an easy one.  She and her love, Darren, have worked hard for this. They have prayed and persevered.  We have been blessed and aided by friends and family, and I have had the joy of watching both Grace and Darren grown and mature and overcome together.

I need to make something clear here. Aside from Darren and Grace, no one has wanted this for Grace more than I have.  I have been her cheerleader.  From the time that she decided that she wanted to do this, the mother song that I have sung over her life has been one of encouragement and determination.  When words of doubt and discouragement came at her from others, I sang louder and stronger.  When she doubted herself, I sang until she remembered her song again.  When obstacles loomed large, I sang so much, she overcame them just to shut me up! 

My point is, aside from Grace and Darren, no one wants to see Grace living in England more than I do. 

And no one understands the tremendous blessing that God has poured out onto my life like I do, in the form of my sweet Brian and three incredible stepchildren, not to mention a whole other family to love and be loved by.  I grasp the immensity of this adventure that I am on, and I treasure it. It will keep me busy and fill my life with love. 

And still, grief remains. That is as it should be. 

I joke with the kids, that I am going to be at home helping Grace get ready to go, we'll send her off on the 25th, and I'll come back to Massachusetts the next day to spend Thanksgiving here...a broken woman. Maybe you had to be there. It's funny, because it's true. 

I am learning not to fear grief.  Grace told me recently that she had realized that the sadness was scary for her.  I understand that. 

Do you realize that with something like this, if Grace and I thought everything was going to be wonderful and she'd leave and I'd head to Massachusetts and life would be one long precession of rainbows, English teas and puppies, we'd receive no shortage of warnings about how rough it would actually be.

And if we enter into this with eyes wide open, fully aware that in the midst of the adventures, we'd miss each other like crazy and mourn the loss of what was even though what is becoming is amazing, comfort comes in the form of almost complete denial.  After all, is it really likely that we'll actually be so busy in our new lives that we won't miss each other? 

Don't get me wrong. I am grateful for Skype.  With the internet, we will be able to be in contact daily if we want to.  There will be visits, and how brilliant is it, that I will be able to visit England!  I love Darren with all my momma heart, and I am so grateful for his parents, especially his beautiful mum who loves my daughter with all her momma heart, as well. Grace's faith in the Lord has blossomed in the past year, and I have thrilled at being able to watch her and Darren spur each other on to faith and good deeds, deepening their relationships with God as well as with each other.  This thing has wonderful written all over it!

My grief at Grace's moving away takes nothing away from the wonderful.  And the wonderful takes nothing away from the grief.  It all just is. 

It all just is. 

I'm okay now, though. Grace and I are here in Massachusetts, and I am treasuring every moment. Living moment by moment, day by day.

And the 25th?   It can take care of itself until I get there.

My Zimbio