A Letter to my Seven Year Old Self

Please don’t misunderstand when I share this. I am not searching for sympathy. This girl imposed enough of that on herself when she was younger. I also used it as an excuse for my poor choices and bad behavior.

Why am I sharing?

Maybe this will help someone else. Maybe there’someone out there who’ve walked in my shoes. Maybe you too, have felt worthless or useless. Maybe like me, someone has made a promise they were never meant to make and it’s caused confusion and delusion. I don’t know, maybe someone just needs to hear that ”You are loved and worthy.”

This to me was a freeing exercise to do.

To my Seven-year-old self,

Little girl, you’ve placed the weight of the world on your shoulders. You have chosen a burden and responsibility much too great to shoulder. In fact, you can’t possibly do this. Not only are you not an adult, and trying to do adult things, you need to allow others to care for you.

I know you made a promise to your Daddy the night before he died. I know you intend to keep that promise. That’s how you are. You always strive to do what you say you will. But your Daddy didn’t mean it in the literal way you took it. He just wanted to reassure you that he had faith and confidence that you would do the right thing by helping your Mom, not trying to take his place.

Sweetie, you spent many hours angry and frustrated because you were a child trying to be an adult. You didn’t always enjoy the carefree life a child of seven often does. You grew up way too fast.

Your anger translated into hidden tears at night. It also wedged a gap between you and your Creator, God and your family members. Often times you would burst into fits of rage and no one understood because you never let anyone in your world. You kept it bottled. Plastered a smile on your face and pretended all was well.

You didn’t break the promise to you, Daddy. He is not disappointed with you. Your mom isn’t disappointed with you and your siblings are not disappointed with you. You are so loved.

That was my ”Today”

Brad Paisleys, Today, is probably one of the best songs ever written and sung. It’s such a great reminder that if we can hold on to special memories today, those memories are what will get us through tomorrow.

And I don’t know about tomorrow 
Right now the whole world feels right 
And the memory of a day like today 
Can get you through the rest of your life.

I’ll eventually get back to our Lexington trip but I keep mulling this post over and over again. I know from previous experience when these thoughts don’t go by the wayside, I am supposed to do something about it and so I’ll write.

It was the most gut-wrenching day of my adult life. The moment when the Hospice Doctor tells me, you need to call the family in. ”Ned’s time is short. I don’t know if he’ll be here more than 3-4 days.”

Just to clarify, I asked, ”So, you’re telling me that I need to call my sister to come back and I need to try to get my brother here from Oregon and any of the grandchildren that can come?”

”Yes, and I wouldn’t linger.”

I graciously thanked him and called Kristi. Call one. Check.

Knowing full well that David would unlikely be up a little before 6 his time, I called anyway. I held firm and didn’t get shakey with my words. ”You need to make arrangements to get here ASAP! And please call Zach and let him know.” Call two. Done.

Breathe. Focus. Breathe……reality set in. I had to call my children. All of a sudden, like a tidal wave, I collapsed screaming and crying into Terry’s lap. ”I can’t do this. This is too hard. I can’t call the kids and tell them their Papaw is dying. I can’t. I just can’t.” The weight of it all finally took its toll.

Gently rubbing my back, he said, ”It’s ok. I’ll call them.” I cried harder. I ugly cried. Every ounce of what I’d been holding back was now gaining momentum and no matter how I tried, it wouldn’t stop until it all filtered out. When it was over, I dried my tear-stained eyes, blew my nose and announced with all the confidence I could muster, ”No, it’s something I need to do. I’ll call them.”

The first call was to Ryan. I knew he was working and I wasn’t about to leave a message of such magnitude. I just left a message asking him to return my call.

Next up was Alex. Keep in mind. Matthew was deployed. I would later have to contact him through the Red Cross. Alex had just seen Ned a few days before. He wasn’t shocked or surprised but he was quiet. Knowing he had classes, I tried hard to keep things as upbeat as possible. He would be home tomorrow and that was good enough.

In between, calls, Ryan called me back. He knew. I didn’t have to tell him. I did anyway. Sometimes, its just good to give reality a voice. Hard. But good. Immediately, he asked, ”Mom, are you okay? I know all of this has been hard on you.”

Tears fell as I assured him I was okay. Truthfully, I was okay. His sensitivity made me cry a little.

Finally, I called Amy. There’s never a good time or a good way to do these things. I knew her schedule and she was finishing up classes and would be heading to track practice. With every ounce of strength, I could round up, I said, ”Amy, they’ve only given your Papaw a few days to live. You’re gonna need to come home.” Silence. Dead Silence.

Sniffling she said, ”Mom, I’m crying and everyone is seeing me cry cause I’m walking in the courtyard. I’ll have to call you back. I can’t talk right now.”

It wasn’t long until she called me back and I could tell she’d still been crying, ”Mom, when I told Cale (her coach), he told me to skip practice and come home.”

I pleaded with her to be careful.

An hour and a half later, she arrived. Safe and sound.

It’s what transpires within the next hour or so that touches my heart in ways I cannot even begin to describe.

Amy’s main focus was to attend to her Papaw. He was still coherent but wasn’t talking much. A few words here and there. A nod of the head. Maybe a smile or two. She asked him if he wanted some ice cream. He nodded and she took the spoon and began feeding him. She would ask, “Papaw, do you want another bite and he would nod.” After a little while, he threw his hand up for her to stop and clamped his lips together, indicating that he was done. No more.

Sweetly she leaned close to him and said, ”See Papaw, I can feed you just like you fed me when I was little.”

So, if I’d had a lot of tears left in me at that point, I would’ve been balling like a baby. What a tender and precious moment my baby girl had just experienced with her Papaw.

As it would turn out, Amy fed her Papaw the last meal he ate. It would be a memory etched in our minds forever. A precious memory.

It makes me so grateful for the early morning hard because, at the end of the day, God gave us such a great gift. The gift of His perfect timing and placing us at the right time and place. I think today, that’s what He wants me to remember and He wants me to tell you, His ways are always perfect. He is always on time and His goodness abounds in rich mercy and grace.

Broken and Useful

Interestingly I happened upon a PBS show Eugenics Crusade. Eugenics became popular in the United States as well as other countries because of its promise to improve the human race. However, popularity waned when Hitler perverted eugenics during World War II to form his “perfect society”.

After watching the show, I conversed with my friend, Tima, about the whole idea of eugenics. During the course of our conversation we discussed the magnitude of how much can be learned by those society deems invaluable, in particularly those with severe mental handicaps.

Have you ever been around adults or children with severe mental handicaps? How do you feel around them? Do they make you cringe? Do you feel an awkwardness because they’re not like you? Are they detestable and insignificant to you?

For years, I feared those with handicaps. Let me explain. When I was young my Caregiver had neighbors who had a handicapped son. He had cerebral palsy. He was wheelchair bound, he didn’t speak, moaned and drooled. He could sit upright and had use of his hands. One time, I got close to wheelchair and he lunged at me. Scared the life out of me. His sweet mother explained he was just trying to give me a hug. This whole thing was foreign to me and as a result I avoided children and adults who had handicaps.

Fast forward about 20 years and I met this couple, Steve and Lynn Easler. They were my Sunday School teachers. We had a Christmas party and they invited me to come ride with them. At that time, I didn’t know a lot about them. When I arrived at their house, the introduced me to their three biological children and then to Jared, their first special needs adopted son. Jared had physical disabilities, not mental, his hands and feet were clubbed. On the way to the party they shared with me their desire to adopt “special needs” children. Little did I know, at the time, that I would have the privilege of watching God gift them with a multitude of children.

However. it was the adoption of their third child that God would show me how absurdly wrong my thinking was about “special needs” children. Julia, now in her late twenties, was born with Cerebral Palsy. Her life itself is a miracle. Trust me. When Lynn and Steve brought her home, we gathered and prayed over her. At the time, they didn’t know how severe she really was. Julia, by the world view, is nothing more than a “vegetable”, if you will. She requires full time care and can do nothing on her own. She even has a feeding tube. Yet the joy this child has brought to those of us who know her is unexplainable. The way she turns he head at the sound of Lynn and Steve’s voices. The way she looks at them. The tenderness and care they administer to her. She is a gift. It’s truly a beautiful thing as well as humbling. You see, God pours himself into her brokenness and makes her a thing of beauty to all who know her.

Our desire is for perfection. Now, we’re working harder and harder to achieve what we deem perfect. Social media gives us a boost, too, because it’s easier to portray the perfect image. Heck, now there’s even an app to make your body look better. Our desire for perfection keeps us from being honest with ourselves and others when we are broken.

Perfection to most is something that is unbroken, no holes, no blemishes, flawless. However, let me explain something about God’s view of perfection. He takes that which is broken and seemingly useless and He makes it useful and highly valuable. Our problem is that we want to hide or rid ourselves of our flaws. Do you realize that He wants to work through them? God wants to use our brokenness, our blemishes and holes to pour out more of himself . He takes our uselessness and makes it useful for his glory.

As I was sitting here writing this song came to mind.

Bill Gaither – Something Beautiful Lyrics

Something beautiful, something good
All my confusion He understood
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But he made something beautiful of my lifeIf there ever were dreams
That were lofty and noble
They were my dreams at the start
And hope for life’s best were the hopes
That I harbor down deep in my heart
But my dreams turned to ashes
And my castles all crumbled, my fortune turned to loss
So I wrapped it all in the rags of life
And laid it at the cross