Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In His Grip--starting the book

Has it really been 10 years already since that first day in the Doctor's office?

It’s a hot, muggy Atlanta day in July, and I’m standing at the kitchen window with my mid-morning cup of coffee. Peering out into the backyard, I can see the swarm of kids that have invaded our pool--laughing, splashing and making the most of the summer.

My dark-haired 12-year-old daughter Olivia is right in the middle of it, giggling and keeping up with all of her friends. The only sign that she isn’t just like them is her thin frame and the pale skin that doesn’t go away no matter how many days she spends outdoors.

Her unbridled exuberance as she cannonballs into the pool makes me laugh. Nothing is stopping her today. She is going to be the last man standing by sheer willpower. I see it in the way she is trying to race her friends, and how they gather by the edge of the pool, daring each other to try the next crazy dive.

There’s so much life in those eyes of hers, even rimmed with dark circles. They’re full of determination as she stands by the pool edge ready to take off yet again--this is her "normal" day and no one and nothing will take it away from her.

She has so much fire for life. I had a friend say one time that Olivia squeezes more out of sixty seconds of life than one person gets in a whole day. It makes me laugh. Bless her--she is so much like her mother.

But when the last guest leaves, this energetic almost-teenager will fall like a heap in her bed and not move for days. No one would believe it, she was going so fast. How could she be sick? But they have just never met Olivia--that real girl.

It’s so easy for the tears to start flowing. Words can’t describe how much I love my little girl, who is already becoming a young lady with her long legs and crazy style. What a treasure she is to me. And the miracle that God has allowed her to stay in my life this long keeps the tears coming, because each and every day is an irreplaceable moment.

They say that a life can change on a dime and I know this to be true. Ten years ago, our lives changed in a second, in a doctor’s office in Nashville, Tennessee. We walked in as a whole family with a little two-year-old cherub-faced toddler who seemed to just keep getting sick. We walked out broken, fractured, and scared. Afraid to quite look into the eyes of a lifetime illness, treatable but not curable.

No longer just our daughter, Olivia, but, our daughter Olivia, who has Cystic Fibrosis.

What’s a mother to do? Sometimes I think this might be the hidden treasure for Moms. We helplessly watch our kids go through all the "stuff" that engulfs their lives, but stand beside them, and walk with them through it a step at a time. We can’t live it for them, as much as we’d like to take their pain away—whether it is a broken bone or a broken heart.

In those times, we drown in every emotion we have inside of us. It can be overwhelming.

You know, when we set out on this journey called life, we are just not sure what to pack. We don't get the list of things to bring to make sure we have everything we need. Hiking shoes, check. Energy bars, check. Tissues, check. Bandages, check.

And just to keep things interesting, not only do we not know how to dress and what to bring, but we also don't get the map or to be the navigator. It’s like a surprise birthday gone wrong, where you show up blindfolded in a slinky black dress and heels, only to pull off the mask and find out you’re going to climb a mountain.

The only thing I know for sure we have in our pocket is a compass called the Holy Spirit and a loving Father to guide us. We never know where the road is leading. All we can do is to take our Father God's hand, taking each step with a blind trust. He knows the path--the obstacles, the heart aches, the treasures, the mountains and the valleys we will face. We just hope those stilettos will hold up and the blisters will be bearable, and start walking.

I slide into a chair at the kitchen table with a pile of medical bills to attack and my battered checkbook in hand. What could seem like an insurmountable task instead gives me a moment to reflect.

In the laundry list of tests and hospital stays, I see the path that has now been cleared with a lot of hard work. The mountains I have climbed with a lot of effort, skinned knees, twisted ankles and lots and lots of training. The times that I have gotten lost along the way looking for that small glow to light my path. But eventually I always get back on the path and keep going until I reach the top. Giving up isn’t an option. You can see where Olivia gets her fight.

How I savor the moment that I reach the top. The light on my face, the breeze--and the view is now so much clearer. I can look down and wonder how I strayed off the path. It all seems so obvious now.

And then the walk back down begins. Down into the valleys, that seem to be so deep and never-ending. In the valley I can't even help but think I may never make it out--and then comes the sunshine on the mountain top. My spirit is renewed and refreshed as I take those last steps digging my way out. All the while, fervently praying I will never have to see that valley again.

And I won't. But there will be another valley, rest assured. Because standing on the mountain top always leads to walking down the other side.

So as I start this new journey, in writing this book, my thoughts go to my Heavenly Father and why He would have you pick up this book. What is His desire for you as you read?

I think that getting through this journey called life, sometimes we need a friend that can give us a hand up to the next step. Someone that has been there and can say with all integrity, I want to help because my heart breaks that you are walking through this.

Because I remember that skinned knee. Do you want to see my scar?
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