Art in the grass

On Henderson Avenue off of Central Expressway in Dallas there is art in empty lots.

I don’t know why it’s there. It may be advertising something I don’t know about.

It is large art. I think it is amazing.

What do you think it means? It’s unexpected beauty, that’s for sure. It makes you think the grocery parking lot and the empty grassy lot are interesting places.

There are some odd, charming stores, too.

Milk and honey and weathered wood and brick painted green as moss on stones.- Katie

 

 

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Last Day

Friday was the last day of school for the children. Oh, sweetness! It had been a very full week, stuffed with field trips and shaving cream play and report cards and hot, sweaty heads when I picked them up at day’s end. You must love school when you give it your all every day, whether the report cards are filled with vowels or consonants. And if the  sweaty heads of four kids eager to talk over each other as they tumble in the car are any indication, the Jarrett crew LOVES school.

The last day finished with a special chapel service. I had nearly had my fill of people and social activities for the week, but Robby BEGGED us on the way out the door to come and hear him play the recorder accompanying one of the hymns.

It is hard to resist naked enthusiasm.

So I did what I could with the morning, ignoring much of the mess, and slid into the parking lot j u s t in time for confession and absolution. The senior pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, who led the funeral service for Lucy, was reminding the kids that whatever the year has held – all we’ve done that we’re ashamed of – we can ask forgiveness and put it behind us. Our angry words, our jealousies, our petty and self-serving conniving. All that can GO AWAY. It can be thrown into the sea and we have the chance to leave with clean hearts, and look forward to next year.

God is so kind! It was just what I needed to hear. I said it in my heart:

I’m sorry

And then we said it all together out loud:

I’m sorry

And then the forgiveness-words, like a miracle, washed over us like rain.

You are forgiven.

We listened to God’s voice from Ezekiel, dry bones ready to rattle to life, the Holy Spirit turning dry rattle into beautiful song. (I’m waiting on the Lord every day…..  asking for the dry rattle of grief to subside into a song of joy…. )

We sang LSB Hymn 597 “Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying” by Jeffrey Blersh, who writes pretty darn excellent hymns in spite of his unfortunately unmusical name. Robby played an itty-bitty kleine recorder with focus and precision. (Listening to sons play hymns in responsible, serious fashion gives mothers hope for their eventual ability to hold down jobs. Just sayin’.)

1. Water, blood, and Spirit crying,
By their witness testifying
To the One whose death-defying
Life has come, with life for all.

2. In a wat’ry grave are buried
All our sins that Jesus carried;
Christ, the Ark of Life, has ferried
Us across death’s raging flood.

3. Dark the way, yet Christ precedes us,
Past the scowl of death He leads us;
Spreads a table where He feeds us
With His body and His blood.

4. Through around us death is seething,
God, His two-edged sword unsheathing,
By His Spirit life is breathing
Through the living, active Word.

5. Spirit, water, blood entreating,
Working faith and its completing
In the One whose death-defeating
Life has come, with life for all.

Can you see why I love this hymn? It’s even better with the tune.

The chapel service ended, we paid our last dues to the hallowed halls, and the children ran out on wings as eagles. Corrie ran hand-in-hand with a friend towards the swings outside, two bright chickadees freed from their cage. Robby headed off to a sleepover with a good friend, two nine-year-olds made up mainly of shining eyes and loud voices and frantic energy. And laughter! Nine-year-olds have the best jokes!

And Abbey and Amos and I drove back to Forney, Abbey already planning her launch into middle school next year… – Katie

Talking

I talk out loud to Lucy. Not when other people are around, just when it’s the two of us.  Occasionally this seems ironic to me, because she never had any words of her own when she lived with us. But I learned from her how much communication takes place without words: saying what you mean or asking for what you want with your eyes and hands and sounds. A lack of articulate speech does not mean a lack of real feelings. You can show love without saying a thing, and Lucy was born to do that.

In the kitchen we have a digital picture frame, one into which you insert a camera card and it displays your pictures as a slideshow. James took a new camera card and loaded it with pictures collected off of his own computer, emailed pictures from family members, the contents of the camera through March of this year, and all together it forms a three-year history of Lucy’s time with us.

The picture frame is a lifeline. I see her face first thing in the morning as I come in to start the coffee, and I say “Hello”. She grins back, love enfleshed in pixels. The frame rests on a table between two chairs at the side of the kitchen where she used to sit all the time, and so having her face in that spot seems as natural as the smells of food in the kitchen.

I have a friend who lost a little daughter many years ago after a terminal illness. Many years have passed since her girl was with her, and yet she says she still feels her presence sometimes. I really admire this person, wanting someday to have the peace and purpose in my own life that radiate from hers. Knowing and loving and losing her daughter shaped her heart and set her feet upon a path that has paid her back a hundredfold in joy.

I want that beauty for ashes, too.

I have another friend who has lost love in her life and has been very honest with me about her struggles to choose joy. It is a battle each day: to bless instead of curse, to parent with kindness and to reject self-pity. This friend’s courage makes me want to keep trying. To accept the days I can’t do anything but cry, and forgive myself for falling down in self-pity, and get up then next day – just like she does – and try again.

There are days when grief and anger make you a really awful version of yourself: yelling at your husband about the dirty floor, refusing to answer the phone, taking it out on the poor kid who came in with muddy shoes instead of remembering that your torn-up world and aching heart are not their fault. It takes courage to say it: grief is going to make you BAD at things sometimes, and forgiving yourself for having the bad-wife, bad-mother, and bad-friend days? I’m not sure, but I’m hoping that the forgiveness is part of putting one foot in front of the other and moving through the wretched Valley of Death. Don’t leave me, Lord!

In her song Kindom Comes, Sara Groves sings:

When anger fills your heart
When in your pain and hurt
You find the strength to stop
You bless instead of curse

When doubting floods your soul
Though all things feel unjust
You open up your heart
You find a way to trust

That’s a little stone that’s a little mortar
That’s a little seed that’s a little water
In the hearts of the sons and the daughters
The kingdom’s coming

What I am trying to say is the song made me wonder if dealing with pain is part of building the Kingdom of God. The days feel so long without her. Like a million love songs say, the light is dimmed and my heart is torn and I will never be the same. But if this is all part of something bigger…

What if every getting-up and every wiping-the-nose and every biting-back-of-unkind-words and every doubt-filled-assertion-that-God-REALLY-IS-GOOD is a tiny stone? A bit of mortar? Another drop of water on a growing thing?

Isn’t that hope?

Is it something I can live without?

Probably not. I’m going to have to keep trying.This is something I talk to Lucy about a lot, hoping to feel her presence, complaining to her how hard it is to live without her. Talking helps.

Sara again, same song:

In the mundane tasks of living
In the pouring out and giving
In the waking up and trying
In the laying down and dying

That’s a little stone that’s a little mortar
That’s a little seed that’s a little water
In the hearts of the sons and the daughters
The kingdom’s coming – taken from Kingdom Comes by Sara Groves

I’m so grateful she said it that way: both the waking up and trying and the laying down and dying. Help me, Lord. – Katie

Man’s best friend. But not cat’s.

This is what happens when you sigh and decide something alive is worth more than your $40 treasured copy of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes that has been chewed to bits right off the bookshelf. We have decided to adopt the dog. Chewing aside, (the CHEWING! why, oh, why do they need to chew on EVERYTHING!) she has settled into our routines and padded into every hidden corner of the house on her chunky paws.

The cats HATE her. I mean really hate her. And like a rowdy 5-year-old confronting sour librarians, she dances around and chases them under the furniture, barking like mad at the front and wagging her tail ninety to nothing at the rear. Cat-tormenting is her chief pleasure, only surpassed by having a really good belly-rub.

We are learning almost as fast as Lily. Here’s one thing we have learned: puppies love cat food. Much better than boring old DHA-enhanced age-appropriate puppy chow. Bleh – give us Kibbles ‘n’ Bits! And cats HATE it when dogs eat their food (are you seeing a cat pattern here?)

So we put the cat food in the bathtub, since the boys leap lightly over the ledge and the chubby puppy can only jump far enough to get her fat paws on the side.

Helen, being a friendly soul, thinks that if the boys are eating in the bathtub it might be something worth trying. She will get in the tub, too!

But once within, she kindly thinks she will help Lily out and slip her just a little kibble. Here you go. The cats glare at them disapprovingly. What can you do when your own slaves betray you?

They hide around corners and under furniture and keep a very close eye on her whereabouts.

But by now she is even allowed to play with Amos’ special bunny, so what can you do? – Katie

Watermelon

Summer must be getting close. It has been getting up to 90 in the late afternoon.

And we had watermelon for the first time this season. Sweetheart Watermelons, no bigger than a bowling ball. You cut them like a cantaloupe and they make a big seedy grin resting on your plate.

And then when you are full of watermelon, you make a big seedy grin, too. – Katie

May 15th

I read frequently the little devotional book Daily Light for Every Day (published by Thomas Nelson). It is Bible verses from different places in the bible put together by themes to make a short reading. There are no comments or titles or explanations, just God’s Word but in a different order than you normally read.

One year ago today I marked the May 15th devotional as my favorite. One year ago Lucy had been healed from RSV and the Flu throughout a difficult spring, and we were home looking forward to a long, hot summer after many days spent in the hospital.

This is the May 15th devotional:

God will wipe away every tear…there shall be no more death, nor sorrow,…for the former things have passed away.

He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. * Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended. * The inhabitant will not say, “I am sick”; the people who dwell in it will be forgiven their iniquity. * The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying. Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Ii will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! * The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

The things which are not seen are eternal.

Rev. 21:4 ; Isaiah 25:8 ; Isaiah 60:20 ; Isaiah 33:24 ; Isaiah 65:19 ; Isaiah 35:10 ; Hosea 13:14 ; I Cor. 15:26, 54 ; 2 Cor. 4:18

And you might think that I read that last year with different feelings than I have now, but maybe Lucy’s life was marked in my mother-heart with a fear of death. Because now that it has come to pass my feelings are the same.

I hate death. I hate sickness and grief and separation and the grave. I hate that Lucy’s ashes are sitting on our living room mantle, all that is left of her precious body, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh waiting to be put into the ground next fall. I hate that there is no more holding. No more hearing, and no more seeing. Her absence is a continual wound to me.

So reading these words – O Death, I will be your plague! O Grave, I will be your destruction! – is like a battle cry. Let this not be all that there is! Please let our relationship of spirit and soul and BODY someday be restored!

I’m not very good at imagining Heaven, and I find the comforting things people say make me feel more confused than anything else. I can’t imagine Lucy running, or speaking, or strong and healthy because while she was alive I loved her limitations as a part of who she was. The Lucy I knew couldn’t do any of those things, and I can’t envision her as a person unfamiliar to me.

I am BELIEVING in resurrection, and BELIEVING in eternal life, and BELIEVING in Jesus power over death because otherwise I would just give up. There would not be any reason to get out of bed in the morning, or keep trying to put one foot in front of another.

Like Puddleglum the Marshwiggle in C.S. Lewis’ story The Silver Chair I get doubtful sometimes as to whether there IS a life beyond this one; whether my hopes for reunion and life together with the Lord are something solid or just imaginary ways of patching over the pain of life. But I would rather live HOPING for all that to be true than buried forever by the emptiness of what I can only see right now.

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things–trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.” – taken from C. S. Lewis’ book The Silver Chair

This is May 15th and tomorrow will be May 16th and it doesn’t stop until it stops.

But as much as a person with my limitations can, I am believing that the things which are not seen are eternal. – Katie