dear younger me.7

Megan, it’s hard for me to even remember the carefree days you’re living.  You have literally zero people who are dependent on you.  If you could respond, and I wish you could, you would argue.  You’re great at arguing.  You would tell me that the weight of the world is on your shoulders and I would smile and let you think that.  I would be that smug.  I’m such a jerk.  But I wouldn’t trade places with you for the world.  We are three days away from handing our son over to a surgeon who will open his little chest, put his broken heart on bypass and attempt to fix parts of it.  This is poop-in-your-pants scary and I wouldn’t still wouldn’t trade places with you.  Nearly as bad is the fact that two of our daughters are obsessed with slime and every room I walk into has little containers, my little containers, of the stuff just waiting to get spilled on carpet and stuck in hair.  Open heart surgery and slime…it’s a toss up.

But this isn’t about that.  I need to tell you how to pray.  Right now you are using God like some cosmic concession stand.  You walk up when you need something, order what sounds good, accepting that you might have to pay a couple bucks, and wait for whatever you asked for to be handed over.  Your prayers are small because your world is small and before you get all pissy about that remember that I am you and I remember and I know differently now.  At sometime, I can’t remember exactly when, you will realize that an infinitely big God can handle bigger stuff.  When you realize this you will begin to pray more recklessly and it will make all the difference.  You will go to deliver a meal to a dear one who has lost 3 babies.  Three.  And is now fighting for her life with stage 4 breast cancer.  She will be sitting on her front porch, post chemo treatment, with her head in her hands and you will gently touch her shoulder and tell her who you are and that you’ve put dinner in the kitchen because she will be in so much pain she will not even be able to raise her head.  You will pray over her because that’s maybe the only food that sounds good and then you will drive away.  And as you do you will hit your steering wheel and weep and you will pray this big prayer, “Abba stop.  Whatever is next for her, if it isn’t beautiful and healing and good, give it to me.  I beg you to give it to me.” And then you will wait.

Someday you will go on Etsy and order a leather cuff to me made with a brass plate that has your biggest prayer on it, Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.  This will become your battle cry and you will wear that cuff for months straight until it is written on your tongue.  This big prayer will lead you to China.  Twice.  A place that terrifies you and that is very much too far from home.  That big prayer will lead you to two babies who need you and you will give and give to them until you feel stripped of everything and are exhausted and then you will give some more.  This is prolly your biggest prayer yet and it’s cost you a king’s ransom.  You will watch in trust and a little horror as this big prayer you prayed costs your biological kids a King’s ransom too.  And you will wonder if big prayers are worth it, but that’s during the night when thoughts of your son’s coming surgery are keeping vigil with you and Doubt has his head on the pillow next to yours.  You will politely carry his ass out to the curb the next day because it’s Tuesday and Tuesday is trash day.

Someday you will pray bigger prayers because you will be given the perspective that the world is so much bigger than you thought and it’s broken and crappy and the only way to redeem it and bring heaven closer is to pray radical prayers that require radical obedience, something you’re terrible at, but are learning.  And sometimes these big prayers, if you look closely, are actually hundreds and hundreds of little prayers all stacked and smushed together.  You will have these six amazing children who will worry you.  You’re not even sure why, but they will and so you will with pray often and without clear direction because the Spirit has impressed upon you that you must and so you do.  And all these little prayers will melt together into this one big one, “Father, do whatever you need to do in their lives to radically transform them into people that follow hard after you and who pray their own big prayers someday.” This is literally putting your kids on an alter and sacrificing them to a God who has the power to mess them up bad but who adores them and so will only allow what is for their own good, to mold them into the people he created them to be.  This is your biggest prayer yet, this handing over of your opus magnum and asking God to partner with you in the molding of them.  You will have to do this several times a day because you are really good at snatching them back off the alter and pretending that you know what’s best.  You are, again, such a jerk.  And it’s not only your kids and husband you hand over, but yourself as well.  Most importantly, maybe, yourself.  Abba, use me, break me, mold me, fill me, shine a light on all the parts that have gone bad and redeem them for your purposes.  Abba, take me, every inch, and then give me the courage to be who you’ve made me to be, even when it scares the socks off me.  Especially when it scares the socks off me. Remind me that this life is just a blip on the radar screen and that heaven is my real home.  Let me do the work and let me get exactly no recognition for it so you get it all.  And then give me the words to write about it so that others know too and will understand that, despite the fact that I’m a terrible stand in for the King, I’m trying and that

this is me being real.

May.

Here’s the problem with May: all winter long you sit in the doldrums of the year, weather raging outside your frosty windows and every day dancing to a slow rhythm.  Winter is delightfully boring. And then May comes with her gorgeous weather and all you want is to be outside in it, planting and picnicing and instead you are inside because May is the terminus of everything.  May should be like a Summer’s Eve commercial and instead she’s like standing in line at the Secretary of State.  May is when you want to finish strong but you are pretty sure you’re not even going to make it across the line.  May is having the dog lick the deodorant out of your pits while you clean up a water balloon someone brought inside.  May is field trip forms that need to be signed and enclosed in an envelope with seven dollars so that you have to break a twenty at the gas station while you’re picking up gatorade for a field day in which no one wins and no one loses.  May is teachers gifts all in a row on the dining room table and if anyone touches them you will kill them because you’re sure you’re forgetting someone and every spring you wonder if you need to do all the support people and you think maybe not but they gave so much and so you’re torn.  May is last concerts sung by bleary eyed kids who stayed up too late because it was so light.  May is graduation open houses, again with the gifts on the table and the killing.  May is swearing you won’t discriminate between the graduate who worked his tail off and the one who basically just showed up every day and got the participation award because the only way to survive May is by getting everyone the same thing.  May is dandelions in the lawn that sneer at you when you close the blinds at night and tell them for the four thousandth time that you swear it’s their bedtime; it’s going to be light at bedtime now until the fall.  The fall is when the leaves FALL and you go back to school.  No, right now is spring.  Summer is next.  No school in summer but you’ll still have a bed time and it’ll be light. every. night. that’s why we have blinds.  I don’t know why the call it summer, they just do.  Please go to sleep, for the love of Michael. May is registering for classes for the next year when you’re certain this one is going to kill you, so can we just wait?  May is Sign-Up Genius’ by the dozens asking for filled water balloons and gift cards.  It’s the month of Teacher Appreciation Week, when you have to send your kids every blessed day with something but because you are merely surviving this May, you hold up a box of tissues and a tub of wipes that you found in your pantry and say, “which one? Your teacher will love this, trust me.”  May is pale, pasty legs sticking out of new shorts and arguments about wether they are too short and telling them that you paid twenty four dollars for the shirt they’re refusing to put on, which they said they loved and would wear all the time and if anyone questions wether the strap is two fingers wide, just get Maggie and show them.  May should be white jeans, but April was white jeans because no one puts baby in a corner. Which means May is also dancing around the dogs, hands fending them off while yelling, not the white jeans! May is for signing the planner without even reading what is written on it because signing the planner is more than you’ve done all winter but we are finishing strong, remember?  May is for dirty feet and being ok with all their showers consisting of throwing them in the pool and calling it good.  May is for smelling like chlorine.

For all you who have mommed so hard, you are nearly there.  A few more weeks and it’ll be June and she is over almost before she starts and for the lions share of June school will be finished and you will own your days again.  Deep breaths, dear one.  Harry and Megan are getting married in three days, so get your fascinators ready and forget for a little while about all the stuff you have to do before the last day of school.  It’ll all fall into place.  Or it won’t and summer will still come and by day 2 your kids will be SOOO bored and you’ll start a really long paper chain until the first day of school, when you will kill it for a good three months because you are a warrior.  Well done.  And I’ll be here all summer, adventuring with my people and helping Abe recover and telling you about all of it because

this is me being real.

Dear Lily, (2)

Crummy day, huh? Or, maybe, crummy month?  Or even crummy year? I’m so sorry. You’ve always been wise beyond your years, so I don’t need to tell you that life is like that sometimes because you know that already, have experienced hard in your life already.  But if you’ve opened my letter, sure to be brimming with hilarious things, you must be especially sad.  Which is why your mom asked me to write this letter specifically.  She knows that laughing is my favorite language and that I have long used humor as a coping mechanism, a crutch and, sometimes, a weapon.  I can nearly always find something to laugh about. Even in the darkest seasons of my life I have needed laughter and levity like I need air.

The saddest funeral I ever went to was for our Grandma Rodenhouse.  She was the coolest lady; plenty of money but bought these horrible handbags from the coupon section of the Grand Rapids Press and had them monogrammed with a name none of us could bring ourselves to name any of our babies after: Ardene Mildred Rodenhouse.  She was love personified.  She just was and we loved her so dearly.  She used to have us sleep over at her cottage in this terrifying room done up in dark blue with paintings over the bed that gave me shivers.  They were painted burlap of Mexican children, which seems innocuous enough, but there was something really weird about them.  And their placement in a cottage in Holland, Michigan.  But she would put us in her twin beds with the textured coverlets pulled back and would put a chair between us and lightly scratch our backs until we fell asleep.  Her, singing hymns in her deep, soft voice and us melting into the scratchy sheets.  She was the Godliest woman I ever knew.  I miss her still.  For all that she was the picture of health, she up and died one day of a massive heart attack and we could not believe it.  She was someone we figured would live forever if for no other reason than that no one could picture a life without her.  Besides, she took cod liver oil off a spoon every morning from the lazy susan in her kitchen and that had to count for something, you know?  But then on this beautiful, sunny, June day, we found ourselves inexplicably filing into church after Papa, him wearing strength and dignity for his beloved mum, to attend her funeral.  We sat in those hard pews behind my grandpa Andy, who was the perfect counterpoint to her with his slow timbre and his funny hats and the way he’d pull over to the side of the road so he could measure a dandelion to see if it was a record breaker.  He loved Jesus and Grandma I think almost equally.  So we sat there in disbelief that she was gone and with her the pork and beef dinners we lived for in the summer after church and the quiet wisdom she exuded out of every pore in her comfy body.  Now, there is something you need to know about our Grandma.  She had dentures.  Aunt Molly knew this after she found them soaking in a glass in her bathroom and relayed the horror of it to us when we were supposed to be asleep.  But she didn’t just have dentures, no sir.  She had the whitest, biggest dentures I’ve ever seen.  She debuted them at Aunt Betsy’s 8th grade graduation.  Thank heavens for Papa, who called us each and warned us: my mum got new teeth and they’re kind of big for her, but don’t say anything because she’s really proud of them.  Which is why we could only stare, mouth agape when she turned the full power of those porcelain beauties on us.  It was the only thing we ever teased her for and only ever without her knowledge because all of us would sooner have died than risk hurting her by telling her we thought maybe the dentist ordered the wrong size.  And so we sat in that pew, damp Kleenexes clutched in hands and the best thing I could think to do was to lean over to papa, curl my upper lip so my teeth stuck out and whisper a line from the movie Fletch “must be the ball bearings”.  You’d have to know this movie to know why this was funny, but trust me: funny. We both dissolved with silent laughter, feelings at once free of the oppressive sadness and terribly naughty for laughing in church and at a funeral to boot.

Lil, whatever is making you sit on that hard pew at that sad, sad funeral today, I want to lean over and whisper a joke to you to remind you that life isn’t meant to be taken so seriously.  If you were here right now, I’d turn the full force of my comedic genius on you and you would be DYING because I’m hilarious.  So put this letter down and come over or call me and let me do that because funerals don’t last and neither does sadness.  There will be seasons when hurt will curl your body up like a question mark to Father and you will feel breathless and, maybe, hopeless.  But that is the crappiest koolaid out there and you must not drink it.  Whatever has you in a sad, hard place today will give way.  There is always sun after rain.  Always.  It might rain for days and days and you think you will drown in it, but sun will come.  I promise.  And when it does you will find that you are wiser and stronger for having weathered the rain.  And once the sun comes, you need to take your beautiful self out in it and look for the green things that have grown as a result of the rain.  There will always be green things to look for if you are thoughtful and wise and you are both.  Hold that green thing up and say, huh there you are!  And I promise you will feel better.

My dear Lily O’Connor, you are a great great gift.  If you need a laugh today because life is pressing in too hard on you, you just come over and let me tickle your funny bone.  Because, even more than laughter, being together is a balm for the wounded heart.  Your mom can come too because she’s funny (just not as funny as me) and we will tell you in turns that you are everything you are supposed to be and that Jesus is making a way and we will fix you a cuppa and remind you that sun is coming.

I love you deep.

 

*This is the second attempt at a letter I was asked to write for my niece, Lily, who is graduating from high school this month.  It is part of a series of letters written by people who love her to be opened at key moments in her adult life.  My assignment was: a letter to be opened when she needs a laugh.

Dear Lily.

What did the 0 to the 8?

Nice belt.

 

I love you,

Aunt Meg

 

(This is the first attempt at my part of her high school graduation gift, which is a series of letters from the people who love her to my niece to be opened on different occasions.  I’ve been assigned “To be opened on the occasion of needing a laugh…”