The Things A Mother Didn’t Do

It’s uncovered … once again.

I open the drawer to my daughter’s chest-of-drawers, shuffling a few items around to make room for the new. Beside me, my daughter’s sweet hands work, shifting and folding.

Ooh, what’s that? My hand glides over the shiny, smooth surface–the object lining the drawer. Stashed away. Purple. Paint. Prints. “Oh.” We carefully reveal and pull it out. It’s the baby, when she was a baby … her tiny handprints. Made in Sunday school.

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Frustration and disappointment sink to my lower tummy. My heart follows, weighing down a little heavier. “I never did hang this,” I admit. I look to my daughter. “I meant to frame this.” I stumble for words. “I just kept forgetting.”

How many times have I said that over the years? How many times have I stumbled across the thing I never did? How many times have I failed to make a change, make a difference? And now, it seems really too late.

“It’s okay, Mom.” She smiles, always assuring. Always forgiving.

We read over the words together, smiling, laughing, remembering how artistic and messy she could be. Oh, the stories there to share.

“Look how tiny your hands were.” She smiles and gives a little nod. It’s amazing how something so tiny can fill you so full … full of wonder and joy and love.

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We plop down for a game of Princess Uno. I marvel at how I manage to get my teenagers to play Princess Uno still. I never managed to shift to the older version. I guess I enjoy hanging onto all little all I can. And I laugh at the irony–that I played the older version when I was a kid, and now I play the princess version as an adult.

We eventually move to the bed, side by side, talking about her best bud, school, drawing, cats … The daughter who doesn’t love to dance jumps up and takes my hands in hers, and we waltz, laughing, tripping over each other. “You’re going to make me fall,” I say, with a frightened giggle.

Before I know it, best bud is joining us and sister, too. We’re looking and sorting through all the items stashed away in baskets on her bookshelf. And laughing. White wicker baskets, lined in pink-and-white polka-dotted fabric. It’s little items. Cherished items belonging to both of my daughters, from their childhood. Things I just couldn’t part with. Things I cherished too much to stash away in the attic. Because … what if we needed to see them, look at them, read them, breath them in … remember? Now.

I pull out tiny baby Bibles, framed baby pictures, tiny photo albums, and notice the dust covering the stuffed animals. A wave of embarrassment washes over me. I never did make my teenager a teenager room.

I mean … it’s cute, but it’s still a little girl room.

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“Do we need to change your room?” I ask. “Are you happy with the pink paint? It was named ‘Lauren’ … remember? After your best friend. Remember how we had moved away, and you were so glad the paint color had her same name?”

“Yeah. I think we should repaint and change things up some,” daughter says, with her cutest typical smirk–the smirk that tells me she loves me just the way I am, behind and all.

“What color would you possibly want? Other than this color?” I can’t think of one that would be better. Not a single one. Translation: do I have one more paint job in me?

She mulls over the idea.

“Can your room just stay little?” I ask. I know the answer to that. I love being a mama. I thought I’d never be one once. And I’ve loved every step along the way. But the uncovered truth is–I always seem to remain a world’s pace behind. What’s wrong with me?

I didn’t do this. I didn’t do that.

Days pass.

Daughter rushes toward me carrying something precious. She cups the tiny somethings in her hand, like she’s protecting it, guarding it, loving it.

Her eyebrows raise, eyes sparkling. Her smile grows. “Look, Mom. Look what I found in the basket on my bookshelf.” She beams, extending the treasured possessions to me, with her fresh prints anew.

It’s two tiny “A Little” Little Golden Books–The Poky Puppy, Little Golden Book Land. “I can’t believe I found these,” she says. “I didn’t know they were there. In my baskets. I loved these.”

One tee-tiny book, having been read so much, is bound by tape. Bound by love. Some things, some actions are just bound to be. Do you agree?

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And something is uncovered right at that moment. Embracing that second-in-time to my heart like a cherished friend, I’m so thankful I didn’t do what I never did. I’d never do what I never did again for another moment like that.


Happy Mother’s Day! Do you have a similar story to share?  Have you found a little favor through your failures? 

What Alzheimer’s Can Never Take Away

Sweet, familiar faces greet me at the glass screen door. Through tender hugs and peering over beloved shoulders, I begin my search for her. It’s hard to believe this day is here. I’m amazed. Her kids weren’t sure she’d live to see this day. It’s been a rough road lately, I hear. But she’s entered into the hour of her 80th birthday.

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The last time I was here, she conversed with me. She won’t be able to today.

I see her. I take in her sweet details from a distance.

She’s so loved. Disease can take so much from a person. People can give up on you, and one can choose to give up on themselves and others, but from where I stand, Alzheimer’s can’t take away your loves. She is curled up on her side, on the couch, cuddled into her pillow and blanket. So much princess pink. Her loyal Maltese blends in to the white cotton pillowcase, taking up more pillow space than my aunt’s precious face is. The beloved caregiver beckons the help of my cousin, the daughter, and they ease her to standing at the walker. The caregiver cups my aunt’s face in her hands and kisses her forehead.

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She’s so strong, even in her weakness. Because she’s all heart–all heart that fought for grandkids, that survived cancer, that survived the loss of two beloved children, that survived the loss of a husband, that fought and survived so much more than I’ll ever be privy to. Her fragile fingers grip the walker rails. Because Alzheimer’s can’t take away a fighting spirit. Time after time, her kids wonder if she’s being escorted away into the arms of God, but to everyone’s surprise, He wonderfully escorts her wandering mind and body inch by inch to the table through the hands and feet of Christ. She takes a seat at the queen’s chair, the candles are lit, and everyone gathers around her with love, in love.

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She’s so tiny. Always has been. But a recent chest cold pummeled on top of Alzheimer’s leaves her frailer than ever. Her beautiful skin clings to her precious cheekbones. Yet a glow emits from her eyes, as her two remaining daughters sprinkle her face with kisses. She looks, in part, like a ten-year-old with her sweet braids. The room fills with the fragrance of a struck match and a rising melody, happy birthday over her. And the words we know so well since childhood seep from her lips … happy birthday to you. “She’s singing,” I say. “She’s always singing,” says her caregiver, smiling. She is. She sings hymns with her sisters–my mom, my other aunt. One voice begins and hers will blend, like always, because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your treasure. A tiny package containing years of stored-up infinite treasure. Childhood treasure. Leaning-on-the-everlasting-arms kind of treasure.

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She’s so determined. She sits there, wobbly. But she will see this through. Her daughter opens the presents before her, for her. Chocolate and more chocolate. Giggles disperse. I think back over my conversation with my cousin, when I’d inquired over what I could possibly get my aunt for her birthday. If time is short and space is limited, what can I give her? “Chocolate,” said her daughter, my cousin. “She can still eat chocolate?” I asked, surprised. After the week she’d had, being so sick … “She sure can.” Would you look at that? My cousin places a slice of cake before her, crackers and Coke. All her favorites. She parts her lips for one tiny bite after bite, one tiny sip after sip, because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your favorites. 

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She’s so … Heading home, I ponder my aunt in admiration. I can’t quite put my finger on the situation. My oldest says, “Mom, did you hear what Aunt Novie said when we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ … when we sang ‘and many more’?” My daughter giggles. I glance at her through the rearview mirror. “No. What?” I say. My daughter gasps for air, trying to compose herself. “She asked, ‘There’s going to be more?'” I laugh. That’s exactly right. Because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your humor.

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And that’s when I put my finger on it, really put my finger on it–when it seems one doesn’t have a lot to go on, one goes on what they’ve got. Illness can take away much, but some things found in this life can never be removed without authority–love, treasure, a fighting spirit, determination, humor, Coca-Cola, chocolate, and best of all, Jesus. 

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Do you know anyone suffering from a disease like Alzheimer’s? What can you add to the list that can never be taken away? 


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©Shelli Littleton

When The Yoke Seems A Little Runny

I take the bread, cupping my fingers over it and guarding it with my life. I glance down the pew at God’s sweet provision. With my head bowed, I take a long look inside …

Life can be excruciating. It can.

My grandfather answers the phone. “Yellow” … (his version of “hello”)

With excruciating fear, I say, “Pa-Paw, we’re thinking about adopting a baby …” I hadn’t been able to sleep. My gut churned. All the “what ifs” …

“I kindly adopted you, didn’t I.” My grandfather’s words wrap peace around me, like an old familiar song. If I could love this man like I do, who took me as his very own, maybe just maybe a child could love me, too.

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I play and replay that scene over in my mind when life is hard. I remember all the ways God came through for me, through fear, how my two daughters resemble me in the seen and unseen. From the perfectly placed freckles to the seemingly imperfectly placed …

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Because I go to my knees with fear these days. I tell my doctor that I’m not handling things well. Is this coping? She assures me that she’s there to help me, should I need it. Medication, she surely means.

The unease in my heart has kept me up many a night. My insides are doing abnormal things. “Or is this my new normal?” I ask myself. When my pulse races away, I count to ten over and over throughout the night. I pray continually. I chastise myself constantly. The Lord offers the light and steady yoke, and time after time, it seems I take on the weight of the heavy yoke and allow it to run away with me, spinning me around and solidifying my impending disaster, allowing the weight of it to press me to my knees.

And the guilt drives me deeper into the mud and mire.

Why? Where is the peace?

And just this morning, I beg God for answers. God, why? Why can’t I have peace in the midst of the storm? The storms that pummel me, one after another. Why can’t I sleep?

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“I kindly adopted you, didn’t I.” That’s what I hear spoken over my heart. And I think of that night after the Passover, in the garden, before Jesus went to the cross, the excruciating pain.

An angel from heaven appeared to him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Luke 22: 43-46

“Do you really think you are so different from me?” I hear spoken over me. “You love. Your heart is soft, not hard. You’re in pain, Shelli. You’re scared. You’re sweatin’ it out. But you keep kneeling and praying … kneeling and praying …. You are not crippled. You keep getting out of bed each morning, you keep taking step after step, you keep going a little further … with me.”

And as I sit in the midst of the flood, the guilt of how I should be handling things rolls in waves away from me, back out to the ocean.

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And relief, full of peace, splashes over me like new rain. Like Heaven sent.

“This is my body given for you …” I swallow hard and take the cup, wrapping my fingers securely around it, guarding the lifeblood with my life.

“Do this in remembrance of me …”

Do you ever feel like you are handling things all wrong? Does Jesus’ example comfort you, too? 

Much love and Happy Easter, y’all. 

Letting Go Of Your Child

It’s never easy. Letting go is never easy. Especially when you’ve had a needy kid. Life has always been a balancing act for me. One I fear I’ll never perfect. One kid is this way, and another is that way. One kid can eat anything; the other needs to proceed with caution. One has perfect balance; the other needs a hand. It’s just the way of it. But it’s also the life you carve out for yourself and your child when you’ve dealt with the big C. One kid is independent, but enduring surgery and chemotherapy takes a toll on the other … simple things can cause panic, weakness takes hold of the ankles.

Under that curly top lies a head of fear. Afraid of her own shadow.

I take her hand and often. If I can keep her from falling, I’ll do my best, I’ll be there, I’ll extend a hand. She often says, “I go where you go.”

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But time passes, and a kid growing up has a way of changing everything. She doesn’t reach out for my hand anymore.

I open the door for Him. “Come in.”

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I smile because I adore Him. He’s everything I’ve ever wanted for my daughter. Everything I’ve ever prayed for. Everything. I’ve known Him for so long, and I’ve just always loved Him. Something about Him. Even His name …

She doesn’t wait for me. She’s received Him with open arms, and she runs off with Him.

The chair scrapes the dining room floor, as she sits down to Bible study with Him. She’s always been nervous about reading out loud, but she reads aloud to Him. For Him. I’m so proud of her. She loves Him. She loves being in His presence. He brings out the braveness in her.

What do I do with myself? I try to find something to busy myself. This is so new. I’m not as needed as before. And I’m really feeling okay about this. I’ll go for a walk.

I open the sheep pen, and my feet hit the leaf covered dirt path. Hooves scramble behind me. I hear a different shuffling sound. She’s behind me with Him. The light radiates around her, and she’s glowing.

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It’s the sweetest sight I’ve ever seen. I laugh more than I should. I tear up more than I should.

I speed up. I don’t want to be a bother or interfere. This is good for her. I can’t help but look over, through the forest of trees, as the oaks are slipping on their sundresses. I grasp a small glimpse of her stroll … a shoe here, a pant leg there, color amidst the greenery.

He’s so tall and strong and kind and loving. He’s a gentleman. A real gentleman. I never thought I’d trust my daughter with another.  But here I am … trusting. Trusting more. If she trips, He’s right there. If she balances a log, He’s right there.

She’s more talkative than I’ve ever seen her. Where did the shy, quiet one go? She shares her dreams, her fears, her insecurities, her laughs … with Him.

All her late night conversations … Him.

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“Bye, Mom.” She closes the car door, and she’s off. The car travels through our windy driveway. She’s off with Him.

I wave my empty hand, blow a kiss, and watch the car till it’s out of sight. I look at my feet. The trees. The garden. The Rose of Sharon. And peace wraps around me like a shawl. I bow my head. Thank you, Father, for taking her hand and traveling this road with her. I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter man in her life. You’re everything I’ve ever prayed for, since the day she was born. I’m thankful she knows you. 

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~~~

Are you having to let go of something? Someone? How has God helped you through this? What insight has the Lord given you?

 

Living On The Border Of Danger

My girl reclines in the dental chair. Her x-rays hang enlightened on the wall behind her.

“You need to wear this retainer,” the man says.

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Hard to believe two years had already passed, wearing braces. I didn’t really want to get braces for this daughter because her teeth were straight, her bite was just off a bit. She had the cutest crooked smile. But the doctor insisted that her teeth wouldn’t wear correctly, and she’d have trouble in her later years. But she had a gap in her front teeth for years, and I was told she needed this simple surgery to cut the gums between her teeth to allow her teeth to grow together. I didn’t buy it. And sure enough, her two front teeth grew together over time without surgery. Why did she really need braces? We don’t need perfection. My other daughter’s braces came off months ago, and she constantly jokes that it looks like she’s wearing dentures because her teeth are just too perfect. Too straight.

The dental assistant jumps up and runs toward me. “Did you hear there’s been a mountain lion spotted in your area?” She shows me a picture on her phone. “The dog at Tiger Mart got killed” (this is where we refuel our vehicles, and the sad irony …?).

I want to buckle over with grief. I figured there had been a mountain lion, bobcat, but I had no idea it still prowled around. My mind flashes back to nearly two years ago when our lamb had been killed and eaten. The guilt stabs me time after time. We didn’t protect Bindy like we should have. We didn’t  protect our property. I can still envision seeing her, going to my knees our on Texas land, crying, my husband dragging her sweet remains.

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Sandy and Bindy when we first brought them home, and they didn’t like us.
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Working hard to gain their love and trust. We miss our little black sheep of the family.

The same happened to my neighbor’s baby goat. They’d been searching for her, neither hide nor hair surfaced. That had been my warning, but I didn’t heed it. We didn’t realize the danger that lurked, that could so easily cross over into our property.

My heart still breaks at what Sandy witnessed. How long she stood nearby the scene, waiting for us to come out and help her. And from that moment on, she wouldn’t leave my side. She’d jump the entire fence to be with me.

Apparently, there’s been a mountain lion in our area for some time. No one’s stopped it. No one’s caught it. It leaves trails of death, sandy-powdery tracks. We hear about it from time to time.

Some are helpless to do anything about it, helpless to protect their large herds of livestock. How can they?

Some make light of it. Do they have nothing to protect? Have they not been injured?  Do they not understand? Do they not live in the danger zone?

We don’t make light of it anymore.

We basically live in a slim shade of fear. But that’s how the world is … carnivorous. I know that mountain lion needs to eat. And I adore mountain lions. Beautiful. But I don’t want my babies killed. Sheep meat might be purchased at the grocery store, but not my sheep meat. And I don’t want to be hurt or my girls hurt. I’ve heard of mountain lions tearing off people’s faces in broad daylight.

We walk our property line daily.

One must protect their own.

I think of the wall of fencing where we’ve enclosed our sheep. Blankets hang over the wiring to keep out the cold wind, to keep them warm and protected. We’ve done just about all we can do. We can’t keep them totally protected, there’s no way, so I pray the perpetrator isn’t that smart. Maybe it’s just enough to deter.

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Sandy couldn’t make it alone. She needed a companion. So here is baby Ginny.
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Ginny and Sandy

But a few weeks ago, my husband found a powdery print outside the pen in the sandy soil. Right outside the gate. I found the blanket that drapes against the wall of fencing half torn down. Like something had sought to devour.

Some mornings, the babies just seem spooked.

We put the sheep up every evening. By morning, if I think we’ve forgotten, I go into sheer panic mode, unable to recognize myself, until I see their sweet faces, see they’re safe. See that I really did protect them.

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Ginny and Sandy, all grown up
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Sandy and Ginny

My gaze returns to my daughter’s x-rays. The old x-rays versus the new ones. What? Look at those huge gaps in her back teeth. Goodness, that bite was really off. I look at my baby girl smiling. Perfect, straight teeth now.

Was it that bad before? Really? I didn’t realize they were so bad. Sometimes it takes comparing where we are now to where we were to see that we really needed change. Desperately needed change. The danger had just crept in so slowly. Year after childhood year.

“If you wear this retainer every day for six months and every night after that, your teeth will stay in place. They’ll be protected. Everything that you’ve worked all these years for will remain intact. It’s so important,” the dentist says, trying his best to enlighten her.

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My Texas–When You Wonder How to Survive a Natural Disaster


How do you survive a disaster? I don’t know. 

I had a completely different post ready for this week, but a tornado swirled through our Dallas area, leaving devastation in its wake. It traveled our I-30, turning vehicles upside down. Bodies strewn. My tires touch that I-30 weekly.

The warm weather we were experiencing has turned to rain and chilled air. 

And my heart is shivering from unbelief and fear and concern. 

I’m thankful to be safe. 

I was near the area when the sirens began blaring … driving home with my girls from a Christmas family gathering. My hands shook, my body trembled. Lightning lit the sky, one after another. No rain. When the sky brightened, the girls looked for tornadoes, as I drove.

But tornado warnings are a common, so common, occurrence here in Texas. You mentally blow it off for the most parttime after time, hiding out in the bathroom, and nothing happensuntil something like this happens. 

I have a dear friend who survived the major tornado in Wichita Falls, Texas, over 25 years ago … as a child … and you can believe she takes warnings seriously. When your entire house is missing except for the four walls of the tiny closet you and your three family members are standing in … you take it seriously. 

I just learned that our pediatrician’s office in Rowlett, Texas, was destroyed. 



Our dentist is there. Our daughter volunteers at the hospital there each summer. I have two cousins that work there at the cancer center. It’s real.

We have dear friends we haven’t heard from. I’ve heard their neighborhood was damaged. I pray they didn’t lose their home. I pray they weren’t hurt. But they weren’t at church today. Maybe they are out of town. I’m trying to find out.
**update … they are fine. Their home was damaged but not destroyed. However, the homes one street over were demolished.

Since my early 20s, I’ve witnessed an airplane crashB-52 on the air base, preparing for an air show. I was inches from being at a base hospital that was terrorized by a gunman, this is the hospital where we had doctor appointments, picked up our prescriptions, etc. The gunman killed and injured so many. Bloodied the walls. So a tornado … why should it surprise me? But like all else, it’s always something that happens in other states, other cities. But wow … this hits close to home. I was little more than a mile away from the destruction, as a crow flies, that evening. Traveling the same direction for a time, a lake separating us.

Destruction abounds.

What do you do in the aftermath? This is the best my heart’s got.

CRY

The only thing that comes to mind is an event that took place Christmas Eve. My daughter came to me in tears, holding a cherished childhood book called You and Me, Little Bear.

She was clearly hurting.

I said, “What’s wrong?”



CAST YOUR CARES 

She melted into my arms and sobbed, “This is my last Christmas as a teenager.”

Tears pooled in my eyes. She’s afraid. Change is coming, change has come, good or bad, and there is nothing any of us can do about it. We can’t reverse the clock. We can’t grasp hold of the past. We are helpless. 

She handed me a letter. I opened it and read these beautiful words:

“This has been a great year. I’m almost 18, getting ready for college, but these times, I’m always going to remember. I love you and thank you for picking me, for raising me a Godly girl. My last Christmas as a teenager. But no matter how old I get, I will always come home. I need my momma. I love you.”

CURL INTO THE ARMS THAT LOVE YOU


I asked her if I could read her bitty baby book to her, the one she held, like when she was little. She nodded. 



We sat on my bed, legs out straight, and I wrapped her in my arms. I read what I wrote to her so many years ago:



She smiled and said, “You were a writer even then.”

We giggled. More tears. I read. We looked for the hidden crickets amongst the sweet pages like we always did way back when. I closed the page and said, “You will always be my baby. Wherever I am, you will always have a home. And nothing will change until you are ready for it to.”

So … with all that said … I ask you to pray for Texas. Change and heartache come … that’s a real and unavoidable part of life. But there is relief in sharing the pain. Let yourself cry. Cast your cares on the God who loves you and on family and friends who love you. Focus on what is salvageable. Curl up in the heavenly and earthly arms that ease around your shoulders. Go through the motions, but still your heart until you are ready to take on the change.

I honestly don’t know. But this I know

“Love covers over all wrongs.” Proverbs 10:12