Learning to Savor-From the Hospital Room

Last night I got to hug my oldest friend. Not old in age, but old in friendship. She’s in my first memories, my earliest recollections of her being when I was around 3 years old. She taught me how to dress up kitties, and play church with them as our deviant, sulking children, she taught me the game Dead Possum (which I now suspect may have been an original with her), how to suck the pimento out of a green olive, and how to ride double on a banana seat bike. We went on vacations together, spent many summer nights camping with our sleeping bags side by side in a tiny tent, shared (and fell out of) a twin-sized top bunk bed, loved animals together, answered each other's phone calls of “Houston, we have a problem” so many times Houston became a nickname, went on double dates, sobbed on each other’s shoulders through break ups, were bridesmaids in each other's weddings, got ourselves into countless conundrums and embarrassing moments, laughed ourselves into paralysis, and scared each other stiff in the dark nights of many a sleep over.  

  Time rolled on as it has a habit of doing, and we started families and our lives took different paths and we saw less of each other. She is so often the one I think of when I get myself into an absurd situation, or the laughter I hear ringing in my ears when I reminisce about days gone by. But I don’t do a very good job of letting her know how often she is present in my thoughts and her absence is felt in my heart. The past few years have held some dark days for both of us. We’ve sat at each other’s kitchen tables a few times while the kids played, and spoke quietly of fear and depression and longing and loss. She has endured throbbing pain in her body and heart that I can’t imagine, shouldered heavy responsibilities that it still seems like we should be too young to be presented with, and seen too many hospital rooms in the last 2 years.


  Last night she was in one again. This time she sat in a chair beside the bed of her man, smiling softly while he slept the heavy, distant sleep of a body trying to recover from a brain injury. She told me of her last few longer-than- life days, of going from the needs of her tiny infant, to the needs of her Kindergartner sick with a stomach bug, to the bedside of her husband suffering in the ICU. I tried to keep my eyes from spilling over when she said it was as if all the hardest things were happening at once, and we both acknowledged having had words with God because it was all too much. And yet there she was; her baby softly sleeping on a waiting room sofa, oblivious to his family’s crisis, her smile ready and her words clear as she spoke of good reports and better days. Though I saw anxiety in her eyes for the future with all the unknowns a recovery like his holds, she was present, showing up each day for her scariest season yet.



I wish that prayers and a hug felt like enough. I wish that faith in God’s goodness overpowered the fear of suffering and loss and life as we know it being upended in a flash. I wish the cliché “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” was actually true, that we could be spared from seasons that are too much. I wish it wouldn’t take seeing one of our goofiest, favorite friends silent and still on a hospital bed to make me stop and take notice of the callouses on Dave’s thumb resting against mine, or the strength in his steps when he chases the girls up to bed.


  In reality, friendship is a lot easier when the struggle is over who should sit in front and steer the banana seat bike. Friendship in motion is so much more natural than friendship in stillness. Banter feels more friendly than silence. Comfortable friendship is more a vase of fresh flowers, low maintenance and easy, lovely to look at, but unable to endure seasons. Friendships that endure the seasons are more like a deep, rooted perennial. A tulip blooming and vibrant in the spring seasons, but in other seasons simply present and green, nothing flashy or fancy, and in the winters, silent and still in the dark and the cold. Believing together that the sun will warm the earth again, bringing forth laughter and hope and brighter days.


  I don’t know much about being a good friend in the winter seasons. I want to string up an artificial light and avoid the dark days. I feel frustrated that I can’t fix the broken things. I can’t prevent the pain. I can’t pretend my faith is unfaltering.


  I do know this. I saw my friend smile by her husband’s hospital bed, and it looked like courage. I saw her there, in her hardest days yet, and it looked like faith. Not because she wasn’t scared, but because she was given the strength to show up. I saw her parents there, sitting with her through the difficult days and nights, and it looked like tender love. I saw a life spared, a breath of relief and a light of hope. It all looked like grace, and I a thankful witness. I saw the way Dave’s eyes lingered on the girls and I last night, the way we held each other’s hand a little longer when the lights were turned out, and it looked like savoring.




  If you have an oldest friend, one who’s stories and fears you know by heart even if time has altered the landscape of your friendship, make a call or meet for dinner. Savor the smiles and the sound of her voice.





**The best news of the day is, no hospital room tonight. he's coming home!

Pockmarks and Audacious Grace

As I was making my way up the dimly lit porch steps, carrying dirty paper plates and left over apples and popcorn, the remains of yet another harvest dinner ate in the car, I had a strong knowing wash over me that I needed to pray with the girls.   We are far from a routine-oriented family, even on the slower days. We don’t have bedtime rituals of baths or stories or family prayer that we go through every night. Some nights we sit and sing songs. The girls taking turns choosing, or Dave and I suddenly belt out a chorus we know by heart from days gone by. Other nights we read a few pages from our Jesus Storybook Bible (My favorite!) or another book nearby. Many nights we’ve allowed playing or dinner time chatter to linger a little too long so we hurry them through the bathroom, wrap them up in blankets with kisses and quick back rubs and whispered good nights and hustle down to pack lunches and pay bills.



During harvest, I fly solo at bedtime. It’s a season where everything gets stripped down to basic needs. There isn’t time or energy for extras. I depend on the girls to get their pjs on and clothes put away by themselves while I clean up dinner. I quickly brush Sami’s teeth and we hurry to grab sleep caps and dim the lights. If we’re not too far from our 8:30 target, I’ll sometimes scoop up Sami, all cocooned in her pink blanket, and we’ll go sit on Cy’s bed to spend a few final moments of the day together. I knew as I was carrying in the last load from the car, I needed to make time for such a moment, tired and irritated as I was. There had been a barrage of poor choices from one in our party through the day. I knew praying over her could accomplish what no amount of lecturing could.

  Once upstairs, I saw the clothes still strewn I had requested multiple times be put away. Sami was jabbering at a volume far higher than necessary for proximity, and managed to abruptly burp mid-sentence. Twice. The words “Just go to bed” were on my tongue. 13 hours and counting of meeting needs, and I was overdone. But something held them back. I sighed, desperate for the quiet of my room, but knowing only a few tiny minutes can sometimes make all the difference. The Kingdom of God is often revealed in a five minute pause at the end of a day full of faults.

  We sat in the dark on Cypress’s bed. The Bible app read Psalm 23 audibly from my phone. A curly-haired head rested on each of my legs, bodies under a mound of blankets. After the second time through the Psalm, I began to pray. I prayed for them by name, for their individual needs. That they would learn to love truth and become trustworthy. That they would be strong enough to ask for help and not potty their pants. I committed them again to God’s hands, where not even Satan’s slickest schemes can get to them. I applauded the work God has begun in each, the dignity and strength he is continuing to perfect in Cy. The security and compassion he is so beautifully working in Sami. And, as has marked every prayer of mine for the past 3 years, I pleaded with God to affirm in their hearts how loved they are by me, even when I’m such a mess at showing it. In my most used phrase of motherhood prayers, I asked him to cover every sin I’d committed against Cypress, and against Sami with his grace. As I said the words, a phrase of scripture I hadn’t thought of in a while settled in my thoughts. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”.

  I’d never known abounding sin until motherhood. As I quoted the line aloud, I had a vision flood the darkness behind my eye lids. I saw a pockmarked ground, barren white, marred with ashen holes gouged from screaming anger, from sharp words, from rough hands, from unrealistic expectations. Into each hole was poured this golden sand. It didn’t just merely cover the holes. It filled the black caverns and heaped up over each hole, making shimmering mountains where once was a blackened crater.

  Tears poured from my face and onto the heads that were motionless on my lap, completely calm and quiet even though mommy’s prayer was getting some decent yardage to it. All this time I’ve prayed for my sins to be covered, which honestly feels like way too much to ask. To really expect a complete covering when I’m racking up errors faster than I can count some days is audacious. But the clear message to me in the dark was, “Carrie, I’m not just covering the mistakes, the wounds your anger and reactions have made in these girls. I’m filling them up and heaping them over. And not with cheap fill dirt, either. It’s gold. Glittering grace.”

  “It’s too much, too undeserved, too good to be true!” I said. “But I’m opening my hands. I receive it.” To even say the words and weakly believe them validated this grace, scandalous as it all is. The goodness and mercy that have been chasing after me, even through the long months of darkness when I refused to accept I could ever be loved again and was too strangled by shame and depression to accept the forgiveness and affection offered me, they have cracked open the cellar door of darkness with their persistence, loosened the noose of shame.

  And just for added proof, a tangible gift for my flickering faith, I looked down through my tears to two sets of adoring eyes. Two hands patting me, two voices whispering, “I love you, Mommy.” If that isn’t golden, glittering grace, I don’t know what is.



But where sin increased and abounded, grace (God’s unmerited favor) has surpassed it and increased the more and superabounded. ~Romans 5

If the cellar door still has you locked in darkness, if you feel like you’re too big of a mess, too far gone, too much of a wreck to forgive, please know that you are not alone. Let me remind you that there is nowhere you can go that quarantines you from God’s presence. His goodness and mercy are relentless. Will you hold on to even a spark of hope today? When the door to your darkness cracks, you will have light to share with someone else. The hope I'm speaking today I may need you to speak to me tomorrow.

And if you have a story of abounding, scandalous grace, will you share it with us?