Afternoon Walk

Running stroller plus two boys on bikes plus one little guy on a scooter plus one boy on a ripstick being pulled by a dog equals my afternoon jaunt around the block.

If I didn’t already know every single one of my neighbors, I’d be tempted to wonder what they thought of us.

Yearning Soul

My soul is longing and yearning for the courts of the Lord.

My heart and my flesh cry out to the living God.

Before we had our first daughter two years ago, we had all boys. Five of them. My life was all about being a mom of boys (still is!) and I have loved it.

In the days before Isabel, walking about in public with all these boys would of course draw questions. People would ask if we were “trying for the girl.” Strangers would want to know the deepest longings of my heart, if it was hard for me not to have a daughter, how badly did I want a girl?

It always made me laugh a bit that someone in line at the grocery store was hoping for a quickly-distilled rundown of my innermost thoughts on the subject. But without going into too much navel-gazing, I got to where I could answer quickly: We’d love a daughter, but we love having all these boys too.

And that was the truth. Of course I’d love to have a girl, but I wasn’t walking around feeling like something was lacking. I suppose I was too busy telling my boys to get off the roof. Maybe I’d pine for a daughter if I had some time to think.

When a girl did come into our life, I didn’t realize exactly how much I had been longing for her. She is indeed a gift and she brings with her the sweetness and spark we had been missing. (Having said that, we felt the same exact way when our fifth son was born — he was the spark our family had been missing!)

A few years ago I got a letter from a woman with a bunch of boys. She told me that she so desperately wanted a daughter that she wasn’t sure if she would be truly happy until she had one.

“I have a hole in my heart that can only be filled by a daughter,” she wrote.

I understood the sentiment — I think we all can. There are those of us who might have circumstances that would make the solution more “obvious”– the single person only needs to be married, the married couple only needs a baby, the family with boys only needs a daughter. Human nature keeps us searching for what we need, too often looking where the real solution is not.

This approach can be futile and at times dangerous. Married couples should especially be vigilant against the temptation to think that someone else out there in the world could bring them more happiness than their current spouse.

We all have a longing within us. But the answer to that longing is not a better person. Nor is the answer a bigger house or faster car. These are not all necessarily bad things — and the desire for the “next thing” is normal. But ultimately they are not the answer to that longing deep within. Our wants, and even our needs, are not the things that can fill the emptiness we experience.

Only God can fill that void. There is nothing in this world that will bring us the peace and joy that God offers us. Each of us has a hole in our heart, and the only thing that will properly fill that emptiness in this world and the next, is Jesus. Nothing else can sooth our soul.

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord,” writes St. Augustine, “and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

May we have the grace this Lenten season to fill the void in our heart with the only solution that can truly quench our thirst — Jesus. May the Lord in his loving kindness show us the areas where we search in vain, and give us the grace to seek Him first, before the passing things of this earth.

This originally appeared in the Lenten Reflection booklet and then was reworked for my Southern Cross column. Just keeping it real, people.

Just Beautiful

my mom and dad and my baby brother 

So um, it turns out this cancer thing is a little bit harder than I thought it would be.

One minute I’m trucking along all practical like, getting my mom and dad’s house ready for them to come home from the hospital, and then someone has a bibliography due at school tomorrow morning and I just lose it. I can handle my husband shaving my mom’s head out yonder on the back deck but please do not look at me funny in traffic on the highway, random stranger, I just can’t deal with that.

Again, I keep going back to this concept that it’s not about me. This isn’t my journey or my story to share. I’m not the one curled up in a post-chemo ball feeling horrible, not the one going through every single food item in the free world trying to figure out the one thing I can manage to keep down. No, I’m the one up and about, buying pinestraw for my landscaping, getting new bedding for Isabel’s big girl bed.

And yet, it hits home. I realize that it’s hard to watch this — even though it’s a part of the process and there I go again having to justify why I shouldn’t be so worn thin and dragged down, it’s all just to keep mom here and healthy, it’s all a great prognosis. But it’s still hard.

A friend asked me the other night how I was doing. At first I didn’t appreciate these kinds of questions because I felt like it insinuated there was something to be doing “not good” about. And then a few weeks go by and you realize your body kind of feels like it’s in a race, one that you thought was a nice little 5K and it turns out to feel a little more half-marathon-y. Two chemo treatments down, four to go. We’re getting there, but certainly not in the homestretch.

We hit this part of the race — my mom’s race, and my dad’s race but I guess all of our race really — and now I appreciate the love and concern not just for them but for me and my family. I appreciate that people realize what it does to family members to watch a loved one fight. To be a part of the fight in a different way — it’s hard. Not nearly as hard as being the fighter, but it’s hard.

I thanked my friend for asking about me and I told here there is grace. And there is. There is a lot of grace. At the very least there is grace to not sit back and wish this hadn’t happened. There’s grace to say, this is what we’ve got, let’s put that next foot in front of the other.

And that’s what we do.

If this round of chemo reactions go like the last one, today will be the hardest day for my mom. So if you could lift her up in prayer that would be so wonderful. We really do feel the prayers. And our physical community, the people we are surrounded by right here in our neighborhood, these people are taking such good care of us. I checked on my mom and dad’s meal schedule the other day and it’s full until mid-June. My mom has friends coming and going, calling and checking on her. And my dad has his friends checking on him, making sure he’s doing okay too.

Life is indeed very good. Fighting for life is hard, but it’s worth it.

Math for Distinguished Gentlemen