I laughed when I realized how many years it took to discover who I am.... by first zealously exploring who I am not

Friday, October 21, 2016

October, Tears and Legacy

I've been weepy for days. I've blamed it on allergies and not feeling well. I've blamed it on being a woman because let's be honest, that right there is enough. However as I was driving home yesterday with beautiful leaves all around and a cool breeze blowing in my little mountain town I had the realization of why. It's October. Its the month of my birthday, my husbands birthday and my mom's birthday. It's also the month that 5 years ago my mom passed away, just a few months after my dad,  literally making me an orphan. I called my brother in law and talked to him for a few minutes and cried about all the things I wish she was here to see and be a part of. Things like Andrew serving in New Orleans- my mom was a missionary at heart and she would be so proud of him and the path that he has chosen. This morning I remembered a writing assignment I had to do for school where I wrote about her.  As I graduate in December it's another memory and momentous moment that I will grieve my mom not being a part of- yet she is a part of my life in so many way. When I play the piano she is part of all the piano lessons. When I sing or paint, she is part of the fact that I grew up in a home where music and creativity was valued. She is the reason that I'm strong willed and determined and I believe truly that I can do anything I want because she told me so my whole life. I just wanted to share this story- some of you may have read it before but it's always a good reminder of her touch on my life.

by: Elizabeth Noles

The weather was unusually warm for fall.  Nonetheless, I was enjoying the sunshine. I had emerged from a long winter, which was  followed by an even longer summer.  I was looking forward to fall with its decidedly cooler weather and lazy nights.  My family had buried my dad in February.  Like the bold yellow, orange, and red leaves bursting from the trees, I found life seeping into the corner pockets of my heart that had been cold and dreary for many months.  I was looking forward to the weeks my mom was coming to spend with me, and for many days had been planning all the trouble that we would get into.  We were famous for our midnight trips to Wal-Mart, and even more infamous for our outlandish projects that we never quite completed.  However,for all the incomplete projects around my house, there had always been many moments of laughter and many hours spent planning what our next project would be.  Momma left on a Friday to travel on vacation with her sister.  When she returned the next week, our plotting and planning would begin. 
Ona Saturday night, sitting in a crowded Chick-Fil-A, I got the phone call.  “Honey, I’m at the hospital and they are doing surgery Monday morning on my heart.  It’s not a big deal. Don’t worry about coming, but I thought you would want to know.” In that moment, my whole world tilted off balance.  It was like a scene from a movie,where the music crescendos into a dead silence.  The restaurant noises drifted into the background, every nerve, every ounce of focus was on the voice coming out of my cell phone.  “Mom, of course I’m going to come.  I’ll leave in the morning and be there as soon as possible”.  I don’t know in what world she thought I would stay home. Sometimes parents still think they know everything. 
I arrived at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, mid-morning on Sunday.  I walked into intensive care and tried to block the sterile, pungent hospital odor from my nostrils.  Machines were beeping, nurses were hopping, and families were sitting in hushed circles with drawn faces and concern oozing from every breath. I didn’t know quite what I would walk into when I saw my mom.I walked up to the nurse’s station and quietly asked for her room. “Kathleen Spruill, please?” 
A stoic nurse dressed in the classic white uniform replied “Are you family?” 
“Yes, ma’am,” I answered in shaky voice.
“Right this way”, as she directed me down the hall, dismissing from her presence.
I opened the door quietly and hesitantly; fear was evident in my quiet moves.  I was quickly greeted by a boisterous hello from my mother sitting up in the bed eating jell-o.  I didn’t know the ICU even served patients food; only my mom could finagle what she wanted against hospital rules.  
            The day went by slowly as only days spent in a hospital do.  After much hustle and bustle from doctors and nurses, I found myself alone with my mom in the late afternoon hour.  In the quiet of the room, I sat next to her and gently placed her hand in mine.  I held it softly, tracing every line and every vein.  I thought about my babies, and how she had held them and patted them to sleep.  I remembered how she changed their diapers and wiped their faces with a gentle caress, known only to those who have watched their children have children of their own.  As I looked at a particularly large wrinkle, I thought how these hands did the same for me.  They have cleaned my house, and washed countless loads of laundry, simply because it was a task to be completed.  Those same hands have felt my brow, even as an adult, when she felt that I was ill and not taking care of myself.  Her manicured fingers have pointed at me and held me accountable when I have squandered my opportunities or made bad decisions.  I didn’t quite know how to put into words all that I was thinking, so I simply said, “I love you. I hope you truly know how much I love you and appreciate you.”  I remember she smiled so peacefully at me and said she knew.  What is it about hospitals that make you want to share your feelings in such open ways?  Maybe if we all spent a few hours in a hospital, we could learn to express the deepest parts of our hearts.  The parts of our heart that we keep locked away in the busyness of life.  The parts,that when faced with uncertainty, begs to be released to those who know us best.  As my mom and I sat and talked in the stillness of the afternoon, we shared tidbits that were of no consequence,mixed in with heartfelt apologies for words that had been said, or actions that couldn’t be reversed.  Neither of us speaking out the fear of what tomorrow would bring with the looming surgery,but constantly assuring each other that all would be fine and life would go on as it always had.   At one point she looked at me with a sternness in her eye. The kind of sternness you learn from years of parenting, the kind that comes wrapped in love, but they still know you mean business. With that look in her eye she said to me, “Live your life surrendered to God. It is the only way you will ever be happy. Live your life surrendered to His Will. Nothing else works.”  I looked at her and in that moment, I knew. 
            Monday morning came early and dreaded.  I kissed her face, and as they wheeled her to surgery, she spoke boldly and clearly “No matter what happens, I win.”  On Monday, October 24, 2011, my mother won.  She won the prize that is given to those who live lives surrendered to God. I know that my dad met her there, and together they walked into the place where hearts are fixed and grief is no more. A place where I believe she watches over my children and caresses them with the warmth of a gentle breeze. A place where she can still point her finger when I squander my opportunities. Some days, especially in the warmth of the fall, when the sun rises high in the sky like an orange balloon about to take flight, I look up and wonder what she sees. I wonder what kind of trouble she has found,and I wonder if they have a Wal-Mart in heaven.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

UUUUUGGGHHH..... you can do it.

My friend JJ posted a video this week. (you can visit her blog here) It was an innocent video. It was a cute video. I'm currently writing this and planning on stealing it and she hasn't even said yes to whether that's ok. It's her son who is the most precious thing you have ever seen. In the past few weeks she posted pictures of him crying because she told him he couldn't lick people anymore and pictures of him crying because there was no more yard work to do. I've seen him go WW3 on a carton on yogurt and one look at him will make you question whether she feeds him or not. (Seriously, the most adorably chubby cheeks you've ever seen). But this video caused me to just watch and I felt God go--- did you catch that?

People around me are struggling. Sickness, despair, worry, fear- wonder for how the next bill will be paid or food will be on the table. I see it everywhere I turn. There is a family at my church flat out being just attacked with sickness. Prayers have been prayed faith has gone out but they are still struggling. People who have lost babies that were supposed to come live with them and then plans get changed and that child is now living with someone else. Adoption is full of heartache and born of brokenness,  and I have friends right now walking through the darkest part of that process.

But as I watched this video I saw so clearly God. We think we are holding it up. We think we are balancing our cares- our pain. Many of us thrive on having it all together and being able to make things work. What? only me? We are so proud of everything we can accomplish and all we do. We brush our shoulders and work it like a boss. We walk through and we are like Rambo until we meet the mountain that seems to stop us in our tracks. For some it is sickness, for others addiction. For others it is just the unknown of where their life is headed. That mountain looms before us and like a little kid we take off to climb it. We put our arms around it and we start to move it and we don't even realize that God is right behind us giving strength to everything we do. God never asked us to carry the load. In fact He tells us very clearly that His yoke is easy and His burden is light- you know why? Because He does the heavy lifting. When we are weighted down, falling underneath the load we are carrying it's because we said Hey God I got this. But God is looking at us and He's going no, I got YOU! What ever your load is tonight whether its family, job, your kids, your church, your self- whatever it is God has you. He's always had you. He will always have you. He takes care of his children, even when we don't see or know that He's there.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


This morning as I was coming home after school drop off a song came on the radio that a friend had posted the lyrics to this week. This song had meant something significant to her as she is walking through having a child with a chronic illness. My thoughts of her were followed quickly by a prayer for her and the immediate struggles they are in right now. I can't imagine what it's like to have a child with very specific medical needs. It is not something I've ever had to deal with on a constant basis, but because I love her I am moved by her struggles in this season.

If you are around me for more than 5 minutes you have heard me talk about my tribe- my women in #the4500 that came together because of a book launch rejection letter. I'm often amazed and caught unaware at some of the differences in my life because of them. This morning's prayers and thoughts are another example. For most of my life everyone that I was in contact believed like me, acted like me and lived their life like me. The last couple of years I've really felt pulled, <pushed, forced> to see the world outside of my own worldview, my very shallow and narrow worldview. What I wasn't prepared for was just the intense depth of life changing awareness this would bring.

I have such a new view of adoption. I've never been around people that adopted or were passionate about adoption. I'm in awe and totally a weepy mess because I've learned the other side of adoption. The side where there are birth moms with wounded, broken hearts and adoptive moms who are desperately trying to balance and manage the feelings of the child in their care and the deep sense of loss that comes from adoption. I've learned that it's not sunshine and happy days because they have this great family now and someone to love them. It's forced me to see the brokenness in the world in such a different way.

Like I opened with, I have several people in this group who have children with desperate medical needs. To watch and read their daily struggles just to keep their child alive is so heartbreaking and so overwhelming that I can't even imagine their life. I can't imagine the pain they live with yet they walk with joy and so much compassion and so much appreciation for what they do have.

I have friends who have given up everything. I mean EVERYTHING for what they know God has called their family to do and walk very alone in that place without the support of family. They live not knowing there they will live next month, not knowing what the future holds, not knowing anything except the fire that God has put in their heart to do something that is too hard and seems impossible, yet they are doing it.

I have friends with unsaved husbands who beat the heavens for their salvation and for their children. I see women fighting to find themselves, seeking their purpose and calling- desperate to find God in the midst of this thing we call life and motherhood and wifehood and sisterhood. And this morning, I am grateful. I am grateful that my heart breaks for things that I have never imagined. I'm grateful that these things push me to pray in ways that I've never prayed before because I love these women in ways I've never loved before.  So this morning I'm just praying. I'm praying for all those hard things that suddenly I can't not know. For the people whose lives look nothing like mine as I sit in my warm house with healthy children and so many other blessings that I take for granted. I'm praying and asking God to keep expanding what I haven't seen because for every hard thing, I see Him in a new way. For every circumstance that's overwhelming I'm amazed at the grace He gives to the person walking that path. For everything that there is no answer to, He is still the answer.

My challenge in all of these ramblings is this- move. Move beyond what is comfortable and known in your life. Connect with people who look different and act different and push you to see the world in a different way. Because when you see the world differently you begin to see God differently. You see His awesomeness and his breadth and how truly big he is in the midst of a life that is just messy and difficult. But He is faithful and we can trust him.