Tag: hope

The power of laughter

laughIt’s probably impossible to play catch-up here, not only because it’s been 6 months, but because it has been a jam-packed 6 months… some of the most surprising of my life.

The summary is that in February, we found ourselves very unexpectedly pregnant. The range of emotions went from terror to shock to utter bliss in the matter of about 10 minutes, and then 2 weeks later, to devastation, as we were told the baby had no heartbeat.

Miscarriage. I have checked that off my bucket list of nightmares I hoped never to face. It sucked. It still sucks. But we survived.

I remember the day I found my laughter again. It was probably 3 or 4 weeks after my D&C. We were lounging in bed on a Saturday morning waiting for the girls to come and jump on us. They did. And for some reason, I grabbed my iPhone and turned on the song “Happy.” (You so know the one). Then I started lip syncing. And dancing. Rod was watching me with the light in his eyes you can only have for the person you adore when she is being completely odd.

And I cracked up. And I couldn’t stop.

That was the day I found myself again. Even though when I look back at my early life, I see a thread of melancholy, the real truth that has arisen as I have “found myself” in adulthood is that I am a joyful person. I smile. I laugh. I embrace happiness. Having a family of my own, becoming a mama, helped me to see that and be that. And while losing a child could have been the thing that changed it (as indeed, it did change me to my core, but that’s another blog), I refuse to let it.

Death doesn’t win.

Fear doesn’t win.

Joy, love, laughter… it will, it must conquer the sad things in life. It will give us wings.

It did this year. But news of another Burton Baby certainly has also helped.  Our first grandchild will be born to Josh and Kirsten this fall! And in May, in the spirit of twofold blessings and almost 3 months to the day we lost our baby, we found out we will be having another, one whose heart is beating and arms are waving.

And I laughed…

baby burton

Where do we go now?

Back in the veryveryvery beginning of my knowing Rod, one day I sent him a barrage of emails with the words to Guns n Roses “Sweet Child of Mine.” You know, that vocal riff Axl does at the end that starts with “Where do we go now, where do we go?” Yeah. I typed that.

I’ll not be doing that again, but I find myself asking the question a lot these days.

Branson Gospel Music Convention 2010 came in whirl of activity… an extreme sport of highs and lows, victories and disappointments, love and resentment, surprises and plans fulfilled. It was a good time, a great success, actually, but for some reason I came home dejected, isolated, and kind of lost.

Meanwhile, we’ve had showing after showing on our house, with no offers yet. And while I am not in a hurry for the vast unknown of packing up and moving our family to a different state, I hate limbo. Hate. It. The fun of making the house “show ready” in the midst of our home office and two toddlers kind of gets stale after awhile as well.

And… the inevitable occurred, the end of Rod’s severance. And while we have downsized and saved and prepared for this time of true self-employment, it is scary to me. Scary! And yet I know good things, reliable things, better things are coming down the pike. I just can’t see them yet.

Honestly, the only thing I have been excited about lately is preparation for homeschooling. Paige, after 11 years of public school, has decided to take the leap this year. So I spend time shopping curriculum, planning applications, thinking it through, adding Miranda’s pre-school start-up to the mix. As usual, I like the New Thing aspect of a new adventure. I have no idea how we as a family will accomplish such a task in the midst of travel, moving, et al, but I know it’s the right thing for us.

So what is the problem, you ask? Well, I don’t know. I guess for the moment, it’s my own lack of vision. There are all these plates spinning in the world around me and while I can manage to keep them spinning, I don’t see an end game. There are words that have been spoken to us that I took to heart and believed, but I don’t see the actions to accompany them, yet. There are dreams and visions birthed in moments of true excitement that now seem like one more thing to do.

I am looking for my purpose, I guess. I had it, and now it feels lost.

One of the most amazing moments of the week in Branson, which feels so far right now, was a small opportunity I received to preach. The message I gave focused in part on my transformation from a person who always expected the worst to a person who believes so much in God’s best for me that I have come to look for it—

You know, one of those annoying people who looks for a rainbow whenever it rains?

You know what’s more annoying?

A person who believes the rainbow is coming but gets testy, impatient, even grossly ambivalent when it is delayed.

I am trying to keep from being that person, hoping it’s just an early-Halloween costume I’ve temporarily donned to cope with a passing season. Ambivalence and cynicism breed nothing productive, and a lack of productivity, above all else, is something I cannot tolerate.

So I will just keep chanting, singing, sending Rod messages: Where do we go now, ah-ha-a-a-a-a-a-a-a….?

The Thaw

Wednesday was one of those days that ran the gamut of emotions.

I woke up melancholy.

I started working and got frustrated, because sometimes working on start-ups (like | these) is like beating one’s head against a brick wall.

I was sad about a little child lost, so I was also weepy.

And then the more I thought about all of it, I just got mad…. like, we should quit this stuff and go back to having ‘real jobs’ kinda mad.

Throughout the day, I got talked down by  friends. I came home from working and took the girls outside. This was not the magic cure-all the pictures depict, even though what the pictures don’t depict is our visit from sweet friends we hadn’t seen in awhile. But I was annoyingly distracted. During play time, I got a press release about something that made me ever more cranky.

Then we chucked it and went to, Miranda’s choice, Crackerbarrel. Nothin’ but good times.

9pm marked our first official summit of the ‘Branson GMC Prayer Circle.’ Rod and I got the kids to bed in the nick of time. Even as we headed to that, I was cranky…confrontational…pissed off.

Turns out the healing balm I needed did not lie in encouraging words from people I love, cuddles and smiles from my children, or fried okra. It was a time dedicated to talking with my Father, which I just don’t do as often as I need or want. By the time prayer was over, my perspective was honestly and truly changed. I was not devoid of the sadness or frustration I’d experienced, but for the most part, saw the truths in it that I could not see earlier that day.

And it turned my day around.

So at 9:30, I finished the tax stuff Rod needed, and it turned into good news. I baked bread for my Gramma, with whom we had a great visit the next day. I made some promises to myself about how I would proceed professionally and personally.

I went to bed at peace.

And the next day I had these captured moments to enjoy:

Rod picks up the winter-dog-poop. I consider it my early anniversary gift, I guess.

Sammie the Dog, meanwhile, contemplates making more…

Kaity chews on something that’s been outside since September…

…happily. (There was never a pair of footwear more suited to her…)

Miranda gives someone ‘tude, perhaps to the birds.

…and contemplates the sunset.

~Our first day of the year in the backyard…the glory of rainboots, the lightness of spring jackets, the promise of renewal…

Loving the blogger babies

The other night, in my choir practice, I requested prayer for Layla Grace.

I had to take a few minutes to explain how I “know” her, because the fact is, I don’t know her. I have never met her, or her parents. I haven’t so much as gotten an “@” from her mom on Twitter. She doesn’t even follow me. And yet, for the past week and a half, I go to sleep and wake up thinking of this little girl and her family.

Layla is 2 years old and is in final stages, days, of her battle with cancer. If not for a miracle, her family will lose her soon.

I have cried real tears over this. I have led my own little ones in saying Layla’s name during their dinner and bedtime prayers. I have shared her story with my mom and husband and friends and the readers of the magazine I edit, my Facebook connections and of course my Twitter followers.

And it’s not the first time.

I don’t know what it is, why we cry and wring our hands and constantly check our Ubertwitter for people who we may not ever meet. I don;t know why Layla’s story has drawn me in when surely I’ve seen others here and there that don’t. In fact, when I first saw her name on a Tweet, I was in the deli line at Jewel. I said a prayer for her and thought to myself, “I cannot get ‘involved,'” because I have already spent tears and deep thoughts and charitable donations on the stories of Sadie (born the same day as my sweet Kaity), Maria, Maddie, Isabella, Liz, Braxton…you might know the names from your own reading or from my sharing about them in the past. But just because my heart is full for these situations doesn’t mean I didn’t have room for Layla. By the next day, I stopped going to manually check the updates and just hit the “follow.” And so we go on.

As a writer, I am much more comfortable and effective in 140 words or characters than I am in person. When my own dear friend miscarried nearly halfway through her surprise – and miraculous – pregnancy, it was over a year before we spoke to each other about it. This was partly because she’d asked us all not to at the beginning… and I did what I do, and made an emotional-yet-snarky/funny care package to send. And I didn’t ask when she gave me the bag of baby gifts back. And I didn’t ask if her sweet angel had been a boy or a girl.

But over dinner one night, somewhere around what would have been that baby’s first birthday, I looked away, because I couldn’t look her in the eye, and I told her that I loved her baby and was so so sad we never got to meet, and always here if she wanted to talk about him or her. And without looking directly at each other, we each shed some tears into our salsa.

I cried for her loss, and I still will cry for those others. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve known them since 1982 at Saukview School, or if I just happened to read their names on a stream of text messages. Their stories have changed me, have challenged me, have caused me to give more, to learn more, to share more, to pray more and on the spur of a moment, to hug my babies more.

Someday I will ask God in the expectancy of an answer that maybe I can grasp: Why do you give children short lives, dangling them like precious carrots in front of terrorized parents? Why would you let any woman suffer through a still birth, or let a teenager carry the guilt of a terrible accident that killed his sister, or let a child the size of my Kaity suffer with tumors her mom can feel?

Even upon reading The Shack, I’m not sure even if I did know God’s answer that I could fathom or accept it. I have to believe there are reasons, but quite frankly, I’m not sure how I would go on with or without them.

And some day, when there’s, sigh, another child that I ask for children to pray for, and they ask me the same question – WHY? – I don’t know what I will tell them…except that it is always ok to cry, to feel, to love. Even strangers. Those three acts cannot hurt us.

Our hearts are with you, Layla Grace.

Broken roads and second chance weddings

There’s no shame in a second chance – a nugget of beautiful, redemptive wisdom I wish I had known on my own wedding day. ‘tis ok, though. I knew it today, January 30, 2010, as another second chance couple began their life together.

Second chance weddings tend to come with clouds and shadows and in the case of mine, absent friends and relatives who didn’t agree that grace covers mistakes. Rod and I are about to celebrate our seventh anniversary. We just celebrated our third anniversary of being parents together. And this year, we begin the ‘career’ of full time ministry together.

I am here to tell you, second chances rock.

On my own wedding day, though, I was apprehensive. I thought for sure that in a crowd of 100 – considerably fewer people than what I had envisioned but still, you know, a pretty significantly-sized Inner Circle – someone was there putting the evil eye (an ancient Italian curse) on us. I was sure that some were looking at my beautiful, flowy white ‘angel’ dress and thinking of another a-word. I was sure that dark forces were placing wagers on how long we would last.

Maybe some of that was true. I don’t know. I am just happy that nearly seven years later, I don’t care.

Today Rod stood up as best man in the wedding of his fairly new friend Eric. It was not Eric’s first wedding. It was the first wedding for April, the bride. She walked down the aisle to “Bless the Broken Road.” Eric cried. So did I. The Ozark  mountains were covered with snow and visible from every glass wall of the Stonegate Chapel. It was a vividly tangible sign of a new beginning.

At our wedding, my friend Stacy read my favorite verse in the whole world: Isaiah 43:19. She also read a little something I wrote about it…expounding on how God is the God of new things. It’s not only a promise I cling to, but a mantra I live by. Every year of our marriage has been filled with surprises – some challenging, some victorious. I welcome new things – new food, new friends, new places, new projects, new kids! Bring it.

I love that the Bible teaches us to embrace the new. It talks about the sea of forgetfulness. It talks about Jesus making all things new. It talks about beauty from ashes. In a nutshell, people do stupid, sucky things sometimes, but when they sincerely work to turn them around, when they fully turn to God to help them, they are given a second chance, a new thing.

It’s bewildering, appalling, maddening to me when other recipients of grace – commonly known as Christians – don’t embrace those teachings, when they decide that it only applies to the imaginary ‘minior’ sins they have categorized in their safe little worlds.

As a married person, the idea of divorce is also appalling to me, but I live in a world of foolish decisions and imperfect people. And those to whom it happens don’t have to be punished for the rest of their lives. Nor do they have to sit on the sidelines. God calls them and uses them and blesses them and gives them a new chance.

As I witnessed the small, intimate, and personalized wedding of Eric and April tonight, my eyes were not only on them, but on the bride’s parents. I doubt that a second-chance wedding was the very first dream they had for their daughter’s future. As a s/mama of three girls, I’m betting no. For my girls, I have very specific hopes about virgin brides who meet their respective brain surgeon/district attorney/British professor husbands some time in grad school and settle down contently after visiting Europe and Asia and living on their own for a few years. However, like my own amazing mom and dad, April’s parents shone only with love and support and pride for their daughter and their new son and their somewhat unconventional nuptials (ours included sung vows and a fajita dinner, theirs included a mini-concert by their new gospel group [Hinson Revival]).

As I caught the eye of my own groom, today the dashing best man and very good friend to the groom, I knew he was thinking and feeling what I was. What second-chance couple hears those lyrics – “Every long lost dream led me to where you are” – and doesn’t embrace that nugget of wisdom?:

Believing in second chances is a good thing.