Two weeks ago I hauled my aging cat to the vet. We should qualify for a frequent visitor award. This time his face had ballooned up and he couldn't open his eye. My professional opinion (okay fine...I googled it) was he either had a tooth abcess or had been in a fight. Again.
I know. I know. Cat owners are supposed to keep their cats inside. This particular cat was having none of that. He was born 17 years ago to a wild barn cat out in the boonies. I heard the kittens were being picked off by coyotes and so I went into rescue mode and he showed up at my house in a big cardboard box. He was indignant. If I make him stay inside anywhere too long he gets that same look.
The little guy was a tad too young to leave his mama and so our dog Ripely adopted the cat. Ripley carried him around in her mouth and allowed the cat to attempt cross species nursing. They bonded quickly and were best friends until we had to put Ripley down a couple of years ago. The cat didn't eat for days. I took him to the vet. They fixed him up with some appetite supporters and we switched him to the good stuff.
One week ago, after we'd let a round of antibiotics do their thing, I took the cat back in for a consult.
AaaaHHH!!!! $1000 estimate for two teeth extraction and support. On a 17 year old cat. What to do. What to do.
The starving kids in Africa, my kid who is ready for braces, a tree we need to pay to have taken down and a spouse who is sick of the cat peeing everywhere were weighing on me.
And yet. This sweet boy.
Guilt...in either decision. Grace shows up in the hard and ugly right? In the petty little things that don't globally matter but which rock our day worlds? Right?
My friend wisely observed it's so hard to make decisions based on the end of a life.
No kidding. Thoughts of Charlie Gard and his parents fighting the entire British government flood my brain. Perspective is good.
There are moms in Syria boiling cardboard right now to feed their children as dinner.
My cat eats better than the children in Syria.
The blood work came back and revealed my pet has been betrayed by his kidneys. Surgery was pointless. Saddened and strangely relieved because the decision was obvious now, I scheduled one last appointment with the vet.
I leaked grief in quiet moments all week. In the little clinicians room I struggled to hold it together. I failed. Head down on exam table I broke down while waiting for the vet to come. My kids were crying. My husband was a stable force of comfort. He patted my back and kissed my forehead. Held the girls. I pulled it together and we all said goodbye.
I pause sometimes and shake my head at the photos of kids in Syria eating cardboard for dinner. I haven't once sobbed over their plight. I think perhaps God wants my heart to break for hurting kids more than my cat.
Don't mistake me. It is good to love well and deeply all of creation. Barn cats included. We learn much, love grows.
C S Lewis wrote this about your heart “If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket —safe, dark, motionless, airless —it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
If one of my children was crying Casey would come sit beside them. His warmth and weight would settle their spirit. Cats are proof that one of the best ways to love hurting people is to just be present. On a rough day I would take great comfort in him just sitting on my lap. Yesterday my husband's hand on my back was enough.
What I know is my life was better because of this cat. I also know his life was saved because I chose to save him. The coyotes lost because I made a decision to love despite the cost to my wallet, to my carpet or to my heart.
You know the obvious sermon there. Our lives are redeemed because a creator chooses us. Despite the cost. He invites us to a feast of the good stuff.
He also invites us to to be involved in a rescue. Sometimes it'll break your heart. It'll cost something. But you can make a difference by choosing to be present, to invest, love, laugh and grieve.. Indoor cats are safer but the ones who go outside have adventures. Go outside. Hearts don't belong in cardboard caskets.
Why I'm not participating in A Day Without a Woman
I come from a long line of strong women. Women who run businesses, travel, volunteer, march and donate. Women who advocate and educate. When I think about their impact on my life though, smaller things stand out.
My Grandma Lorenia poured out love in crystal goblets filled with root beer and hours of card games. She believed that every person was valuable. She served through cancer and poverty and unending demands. Her laughter was contagious. Her legacy was joy.
My Grandma Viola sewed love into packages and prayers. She saved, she served, she perservered. She loved tight hugs, warm cookies and weddings. Her legacy was faithfulness.
My mother-in-law Carleen ran courage into everyone she met. She was fully supportive and passionate about art and flowers and children. She made everyone she met feel welcome. Her legacy is kindness.
My mother Sue is a bright and fierce force of a person. She's got a twinkle in her eye and she has the ability to make me laugh better than any one. This photo is an excerpt of a letter she wrote me when I turned two years old.
I have letters from aunties and cousins. Sisters and friends. Beautiful women who wrote on my soul and call me to be present. To be faithful.
Walking out to prove a point seems dishonest to their steadfast love.
Earlier today I had to make a tough decision. I've been working long hours lobbying for a bill in the upcoming legislaive session. Couple of trips to the state capitol to meet with various governmental types. I received news today that I'd been invited to a dinner with a senator. Great opportunity for professional development. Problem is the dinner is on the same night as my daughter's choir concert. I'd already promised her I'd go.
As I sat and mulled my options I thought about the Day without a Woman. I am quite certain I'm not necessary at the dinner meeting. My colleagues can handle it without me. But my daughter? I don't want her to figure out what it looks like when mom bails. I want her memories to be full of a steadfast mom who showed up when the call was hard. A mom who delivered on promises even when she wasn't being appreciated. A mom who thanked God because He allowed me to be her mother. So I declined the invitation with the Senator and circled my plans for a night with the elementary school choir.
So today I'll wake up my babies. I'll help pick out their clothes and play my part in the daily taxi. I'll go to work. Not because I'm special or different or better than the hundreds of thousands of women who do the same thing every day. But because this investment in our future has more potential to affect change than any strike, any meeting, any lobbying effort. The legacy is love. And the power of love has nothing to do with protests or demands but everything to do with gratitude, service, peace and patience. Should we ignore injustice? Of course not. But love is the only weapon strong enough to win.
Today I'd like to invite you to write on someone else's heart. Those words have eternal weight. Rather than making someone notice you are gone, how about making someone else feel seen? Those are not small actions.
ENTER TO WIN
I've got a new set of note cards, envelopes and gel pens to get you started on your legacy notes. Write your kids, your friends, your parents, your spouse. Tell them you love them. I'll be giving this set to a winner randomly drawn from anyone who comments on this post or shares the post. Winner will be drawn Friday March 10, 2017. No purchase necessary. Prize mailed in the contenintal US only.
Love is patient. Love is kind.
At marriage retreat last weekend I was running through the well known love chapter in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 13 is right up there with John 3:16 for the sheer quantity of times it's included on printed products and memes, wedding invitations and Instagram photos.
This time as I read it I ticked through the list considering if my life included the various aspects of love. It's a good challenge as a marriage, parenting, friendship and internal bitterness checkup.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
I fail on most of these daily. This time though my heart stopped at the "rejoices with the truth" bit and I've been pondering this line all week.
I rejoice a lot. I cheer when my kids smile and when the resident chef makes a delicious dinner. I smile when I cash a paycheck. I rejoice when my team wins.
Problem is I rejoice other times too. I smirk when people I disagree with are caught in a lie. I high five snarky remarks. I don't think that's what the love chapter would call rejoicing with truth.
Then my internal dialogue continued. How do I respond when my spouse tells the truth? When my kids do? When I don't like the truth they speak? Consider.
Me. I have a great idea! Let's (fill in the blank with my random request)
Resident Chef: That won't work today. (Please note he is speaking truth)
Me to child: How was your day? Did you do piano?
Child: cringes. Not yet. (Please note she's speaking truth)
Me: Grrr! Why not?!?
Hmmmm. Not rejoicing. Mostly I rejoice when I like things and I pout when I don't. I'm not even considering the truth. Sigh.
All week I've been wondering what my life would look like if I embraced this rejoicing with truth. If instead of pouting or growling I tried love.
Love says: Thank you for telling me. I can help you with this problem. I'm grateful you trust me. We can fix it. I am so glad I understand better now. I didn't know that part of the story.
No sighs. No pouts. Love looks like grace and rejoices with truth.
I heard a story about two friends walking into a shopping mall. By the front door stood a shabbily dressed woman holding a sign. The sign said "Please help, my baby is sick. We need money for the doctor." The first friend pulled out a $10 bill and pressed it to the woman's hand. As the friends walked away the second friend laughed and said "Oh man! You got scammed! I know her and she has no kids!"
The first man smiled and replied "Wonderful! I'm so glad there is no sick baby!"
I want to see the truth and rejoice with the truth. Truth is on my bad days God loves me. In the midst of my failures He extends grace. When I seek help He extends his hand. He rejoices when I confess. Cheers when I come home.
Knowing why they trusted God, they knew why the known facts were never all the facts. - OS Guinness. Today try planting your feet on eternal truth. Then try responding with grace to the truths of your friends and family. Let me know what you think in the comments. How do you respond to truth? I'm trying today.
My husband and I were just talking about the sad events of the last week. I mentioned that somone was in custody from the shootings in Dallas. My ten-year-old overheard the word custody.
Mom, did they catch the guy who burnt the churches?
No, not yet.
Oh, was it the terrorists? Did they catch the terrorists?
Um. No, that was something else.
Wow. There are a lot of them running around loose right now.
And she went back to reading her book.
Yes. Yes my dear. There are lots of people right now caught up in all kinds of anger and hate.
Honestly part of me wants to rail and yell and kick and write snarky comments on posts that don't line up with my personal talking points. I am mad that my children know about arson and terror and snipers and racism. I'm depressed that my daughter took it all in stride. What kind of world are we living in that a ten-year-old is momentarily sad but not at all shocked at the news?
Mostly I'm heartbroken for the moms this week having to tell childen that their father is not coming home. I do not presume to know what those mother's are going through. I don't know what it is like to send my spouse to work in a uniform that could get him killed. And I have never had to talk to my girls about how to deal with the people who judge them based on the color of their skin. Since I do not know I am not going to say how they should respond.
However. I do know that in total my anger makes the world worse. When I yell or honk or snap - others around me spiral that direction. I really don't want to raise kids that make the world worse. And so as simplistic as it sounds I choose love.
I am going to hug my children. I am going to tell them about Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi and Mother Theresa. About how the world changed because they refused to hate. I am going to read them the words of Jesus about loving your enemies and visiting those in jail and respecting the authorities. I am going to deliver cookies. Never underestimate the power of cookies. I am going to thank anyone I see in uniform. I am going to forgive those who hurt me even when its repeated. I am going to pray. I am going to stand in my neighborhood and speak up when people are hurt or hurting. I am going to listen respectfully when I don't agree. I am going to assume the best and smile at strangers.
What about you? Better or worse? The ten-year-olds are listening.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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