Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

The Joy of Exhaling


Did you hear about the couple in California back in October that survived one of the wildfires by immersing themselves in their neighbor’s pool? For six hours, John and Jan Pascoe repeatedly submerged themselves to avoid the ash and flames. Luckily, their strategy worked. They walked away relatively unscathed, however their home and both of their vehicles were completely destroyed.

I have a hard time imagining what that experience would be like. I wonder how long they may have had to hold their breath at times, waiting for just the right moment to grab another chestful of air.

My husband, Jason, shared this story with me the same day he received news that his cancer may very well be in remission, and I have to confess that I immediately drew some parallels to our own lives.

Have you ever had a time where you felt like you were figuratively holding your breath? Maybe waiting on news of the results of an interview, final judgments in a competition, willing the pregnancy test to show positive or negative? Waiting can be so hard, and sometimes we are asked to do so for long periods of time.

December 19th, Jason and I made a visit to his oncologist. He’s reached the end of a clinical trial he has been a part of for two years. When his test results came back and one of the doctors told us that his blood work was normal, I felt myself truly exhale for the first time in six years. I’m not exaggerating. It’s like I had been unconsciously holding just part of my breath that entire time.

I think our experience mirrors this couple’s in many ways. For six hours they were up and down waiting and hoping for rescue. They watched things fall apart around them. They were at the mercy of the flames. For six years, we have had to tread the proverbial water. Each visit before the trial as the white cell counts grew we were holding our breath just a little bit more. Then, each visit after the start of the medication it would seep out ever so slightly as the numbers began to go down. We would suck a little more air in when side effects would pop up, or infection reared its ugly head. This sounds way more dramatic than reality, but the feeling is true, nonetheless.

There is so much uncertainty with cancer. Even when operations, treatments, or medications do their job, cancer still steals something from you. Your peace of mind is never the same afterwards. Just as this couple lost treasured possessions, there are things you lose with cancer that cannot be replaced. Peace of mind should not be taken for granted.

Maybe you are familiar with a popular Amy Grant Christmas song called “Breath of Heaven.” It is also known as “Mary’s Song.” Here are some of the lyrics:

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now
Be with me now

Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven

The original lyrics were written by English songwriter Chris Eaton. Amy Grant got permission to rework the song to make it into a Christmas tune. Here is what she had to say about it: “It is a prayer that fits a lot of people’s circumstances, because it is a cry of mercy. Some nights on stage I can hardly get through the song for knowing all of the collective, unspoken pain of the lives in front of me. And so the words become my prayer for the listener and the reader, as well as the singer.”

In Job 33:4, we read, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” In Genesis we read that God formed man from the dust of the ground and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” In the book of John, the Bible tells us we must be born of the Spirit. The word Spirit can be translated as a current of air, a breath-blast, a breeze. Not only has God given us physical life, but we have the chance for him to breathe life into our very spirits.

It is for this reason that I cling to my belief in a magnificent Creator. There are times I may not be able to physically breathe, but I have something inside of me that gives me hope nonetheless, that keeps my spirit breathing.

God will not always answer my prayers in the affirmative. Through great research, good doctors, ideal circumstances, and a good physical match between the medication and my husband’s body he was healed this time (at least for now). When the breath of life is taken out of our bodies, or those we love, we can cling to the hope of the breath of heaven that can reside within us.

A few days after our good news I purchased this sign as a gift for Jason. We are looking forward to many more years together.

May you find yourself exhaling soon if life is hard or uncertain right now!

Blessings,

Fitting in vs. Belonging

I sat my two months shy of his 13th birthday son down and told him I wanted to talk with him about a book I just read.  Me reading a book certainly isn’t unusual to him, and we often talk about what I read, so he wasn’t too suspicious.

You see, I just finished reading Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. In chapter 7, she talks about the difference between belonging and fitting in. She interviewed 8th graders to find out how they would define the distinction between the two. The three conclusions that she included were spot on, but my favorite was this one: “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” What a huge topic for a middle schooler to explore!

If you are reading this and you are a parent, then you know the worry of hoping your kid can find a tribe. And, usually we say we want our kids to fit in, but I think what we should want more than anything is for our kids to belong. I don’t want my sons to be anything other than what God created them to be. I want them to be loved for who they are, not who they try to be.

The part of the chapter that made me think more than any other part was the fact that the kids told her that not belonging at school was one thing, but not belonging at home was ultimately even worse. I thought home is where everyone is supposed to belong, but that’s just not the case. Here are some of the examples the kids gave her:

  1. Not living up to you parents’ expectations.
  2. Not being as cool or popular as your parents want you to be.
  3. Not being good at the same things your parents were good at.
  4. Your parents being embarrassed because you don’t have enough friends or you’re not an athlete or a cheerleader.
  5. Your parents not liking who you are and what you like to do.
  6. When your parents don’t pay attention to your life.

So, my son and I talked through these. I wanted to make sure his dad and I weren’t doing any of these six things. I remembered at the end of last school year when he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue with trumpet. He was so remorseful when he told us since his dad had been such a great trumpet player. Neither of us cared, but he had been so worried. Then, I thought about how he loves Pokemon and I am 100% clueless about it. He reassured me that he knows we don’t care if he plays an instrument, and as for Pokemon, we listen to him tell us about his great finds and take him places to play. For him, that’s enough.

We had such a great conversation, and I can’t believe the young man he is turning into. And, I’m so relieved he feels like he belongs at school, church, and at home. There have been various scenarios throughout my life where I felt like I didn’t fit in, but ultimately I knew it was okay, because I always had a place to belong. Some of us are square pegs in round holes and instead of complaining about it, maybe we need to embrace it, or go look for a square board.

If you haven’t read any of Brown’s books, I highly recommend them. She puts language to things we feel inside, but weren’t sure how to define. Braving the Wilderness was an easy read and opened up great dialogue with my kiddo.

Where do you feel like you most belong?

Blessings,

Duped

clothes

The offending clothes.

“Mom! Tomorrow is dress like a grown up day at school. I need you to help me put an outfit together.”

This from the mouth of my youngest son as he was getting ready for bed. He was already going to be late turning in as it was.

I had that momentary mom debate. Do I draw the line and tell him we’ll take care of it in the morning, or just say sorry, he should have told me earlier? Or, do I take a few minutes to help him gather some things? I opted for the latter, mainly because he rarely wants to participate in events such as these, so I actually felt a little encouraged.

He proceeds to pull out a white dress shirt from the closet and put it on. Next, he hunts down a tie he is happy with. Third on the list is pants. Keep in mind, the seasons are beginning to turn. I haven’t pulled out all of his brother’s hand-me-downs yet for the new season. I trudge into his brother’s room and dig through a storage tub in the closet for a pair of dress pants that will hopefully fit. Now, he digs through the drawer for a belt. There are two and we have to make sure which one fits him now. At this point, he begins insisting on a jacket. His brother has a black suit coat and he wants to wear one like that (which we don’t have in his size). I remember we have a nice dress coat hanging in the entryway closet. I drag it out and he tries it on.

People, this has now been a nearly half hour process. I woke up at 4:30 that morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. I am beyond ready to crawl into my own bed.

Finally, he’s satisfied and I tuck him in. I sing him the two songs I have sung every night for as long as I can remember and say the prayer I always say. As soon as I head to his CD player to turn on the audiobook he is currently listening to, he begins to cackle. Not a gentle chuckle. Not a snicker. A full-blown, laughing his head off guffaw.

“Why are you laughing?” I ask.

He laughs harder.

“What is going on?” I press.

He looks at me with sheer glee. “It’s not dress like a grown up day tomorrow!! I tricked you!”

Me: Silence. Dead, furious, livid, stunned silence.

He sees my rage…a bit of a look of panic on his face.

Quietly, “Um, I’ll still wear it tomorrow if you want me to, Mom. Anyway, all isn’t lost. Now we know what I can wear for my school program.”

I maturely leave the room with no words and a slam of my own bedroom door, much to my husband’s dismay. As I relay the story, he sees more of the humor than my distress, which doesn’t help. The ridiculousness of it all strikes me and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I choose to laugh, although I’m still pretty darn mad at this point. How in the world did I give birth to this kind of menace?

A word of warning if you have children. Do not under any circumstances allow them to watch YouTube videos about pranks. I can’t help but think that’s what made the idea enter that little head of his.

I still remember as a kid pretending to be a spider, crawling out from under my bed at bedtime and biting my dad on the shoulder. Unfortunately, I bit way too hard and took a chunk out. No joke. Let’s just say that didn’t go over too well.

Parenting is dangerous, no question about it. At least I get good blogging material from my kids.

Oh, and if your kid tells you it’s a certain dress up day at school and you haven’t heard anything about it, be very, very suspicious.

Blessings,

 

« Older posts

© 2018 Amy Lanham

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑