This morning I woke and my first thought was of my Ash, my boy whom, after an ectopic pregnancy that shattered us, we were told would be close to a miracle to have. But, at the risk of sounding cliche, isn’t all life a miracle? He arrived almost three hours after his due date and we joke sometimes that he’s still trying to catch up.
To be honest with y’all, this morning was hard. I wasn’t there to wish him a happy birthday. I love that my children wake to my voice on their birthdays, and this morning he didn’t. (Deep breath. Don’t remind me this is our future I’m seeing once he’s off to college.)
This whole week has been hard to say the least. For those of you who haven’t seen my incessant Facebooking (sorry about that), last Friday our Coop escaped out the back storm door and grabbed—yes, you read that right, He GRABBED a skunk about 15 feet from our house. Grabbed him right by his tail. Skunk never saw it coming. Neither did Coop. His whole face was yellow from spray, our whole house was filled with the odor, and having no other place to clean him, we had to bathe him in our bathtub with peroxide and baking soda and dish soap… then tomato juice… then shampoo… and skunk odor remover spray, and… sigh, he STILL smells.
So does our home. It permeated everything. The first few days I stayed at my parents, because I can only be in the home for a few hours at a time before my eyes swell and burn. Bella’s room is right above where the event occurred, so she can’t be in her room either. Let’s just say, it’s been a nightmare. I waffled between laughter and tears and near hysteria with both. Because, y’all, the sight of Coop with that skunk in his mouth… HI-larious! The state of our home? Not so much.
It was a gargantuan task, but once again I am blown away by our community. Friends stepped in to take bags and bags of clothing (all our clothes smelled), our linen closet, bedding, curtains, stuffed animals, etc. and wash them for us. We’ve purged—-thrown away mats and rugs and laundry hampers and backpacks and purses and shoes and more. Bri and the boys wiped down all the cabinets and walls and hard furniture with vinegar water. Once again, my Bri rose in crisis like he always does. And he and the boys worked exhaustingly and never (I do not exaggerate) complained. “What else do you need, Dad?” They’d ask him.
We have four air purifiers running. Meals are being delivered to us. My parents have been golden—-running errands, taking laundry, counseling me when I struggle and cleaning along with us. Yesterday a friend came over and helped me empty out my kitchen cabinets, air them out and wipe them down. We got halfway through in four hours. Bella-girl stayed with a friend from school until yesterday. And I am staying in a gorgeous, cozy loft above a garage that friends graciously opened up for me to stay in. It’s five minutes from the house and I can go over and work for a bit, then come back to my “new place” and rest.
I’ve wrested a lot with “place” these past days. My home and my family are safety for me here on earth, and to have that taken away for a time has been hard and eye-opening. God, once again, is using these things we walk through in life to show me that He alone is my safety. He has given me the splendid gifts of my Brian, my Ash & Bear & Bella, my lovely, drafty old farmhouse that always needs something repaired. But I like to clench my hands around them and claim them as mine, when like all things, they are His, and I must open my grasp and offer them back to Him Every. Single. Day.
I’ve questioned God… the “really, Lord? We needed this on top of my cancer?” kind of questions. “On my low week, Lord? When I have limited energy and everything hurts from treatment? Really?” And I’ve been reminded that this is not God punishing me for my lack of faith. It’s not God up there banging His head against the wall thinking, “She’s just not getting it, so let’s give her MORE struggle.” God doesn’t work like that, although I want to put Him in a box and think He does. No, God is grieving with me. And I need to know that. To be reminded of that. That He is with me, even when I don’t feel His presence, even when the struggle overwhelms.
But y’all, there has been joy in the midst of this, too. Our friends, who are sharing their loft with me, have cared so well for my family and me. Bri comes every night to hang out with me. Last night the kids were there, too. Some evenings our hosts join us or we go to them, Rita and I already in our jammies, and we curl up next to their stone fireplace and talk and laugh and share. Yesterday she brought me chocolate chip scones with clotted cream for breakfast. This morning, Bella and I sat with her and her son in their kitchen, and we read a devotional together before school then talked of what truth without love can look like. It is gift.
Our home is getting better. The smell is dissipating. This will end. We have friends who have had to abandon their homes and their belongings because of health and mold, friends who’ve lost homes to fires, and I cannot wrap my mind around their loss. This is just a small taste, and I ask God to give me more compassion for the hurting. And a deeper sense of my need for Him.
My mom made Ash a lasagna yesterday and a strawberry cake (one of his favorites). She’s delivering it today, and tonight we will celebrate our boy at our “home away from home.” I’ll cry because he’s seventeen now, because time is so fleeting, because I’m proud of the man he’s become. I am wrecked just writing this. I love that boy beyond words! And when he leaves, I’ll whisper to him, “Those boys should never be sent to bed… they always wake a day older” (“Finding Neverland” is a favorite movie of mine.) And we will feel at home. Because, to end with yet another cliche—I’ve learned yet again that home is not only a place. It’s the people you surround yourself with; it’s the people you love.
Perhaps that is why we call our church small group—those people who have taken our mess and laughed and cried with us—home group. And I spent last weekend at home with Mom and Daddy. And here, this little loft where I write, is our home away from home. And home is our RV when we travel. And heaven. Our ultimate home, because our God is there.
And dear, goofy Coop, whom we now refer to as Meatball because of his affinity for tomato juice; yes, he’s still loved and very much a part of our home (I just don’t snuggle much with him yet… that smell!).
Thank you to all our friends who have stepped in, who have willingly taken our mess (our stinky mess) and helped, who have reached out and cried with me and prayed with me and for us, who have been there for us as we go through yet another bump in this journey of life. Y’all are my people. My home here on earth. And I’m so grateful.
(Also, I know I’ve been quiet lately and I’ve had several folks ask for a health update… it’s coming. Treatment has been very hard to adjust to, and some days I think cancer is breaking me, but it’s not. If you’ve read this far, just know that the treatment seems to be working to some degree! We just don’t know how much yet.)