Eight years ago our lives looked much different. I’m guessing hers more than mine, simply because I have ALWAYS had lots of children. Back then, she didn’t have any, yet.
Too many. None.
Pretty much that’s where our connection first began. Something about how God can use different means to do the exact same thing in people’s lives. He was sure working in both of ours when He decided to merge our paths.
This picture was taken two years after we met and about six months before her baby boy came along. Ann Marie is holding my youngest child, Little Mae, at a church retreat.
She was getting Ann Marie’s mama arms ready!
We joked after the fact. But not just mama arms. Mama patience with the unexpected, as one Sunday between services, Little Mae did a mustardy diaper explosion all over Ann Marie’s white capris.
Oh yeah, it was a Sunday when she was playing piano on worship team. Thankfully, she lived close enough to go home and change.
Fast-forward through seasons of kids over for drum lessons with her husband, dinner together for Steve’s birthday one year (thanks for cooking!), the arrival of her baby boy, my older kids growing into adults, random meals prepared and dropped off at random times, and countless other supports and kindnesses.
This past week has been an especially meaningful one in the life of our friendship.
Last Saturday, her entire family came to dinner. This was a big deal for me, because it ended a dry spell in the hospitality department. We invited them to be there at 5, and by 6 we were sitting down to eat.
I am so thankful for grace!
The kids played together and roughhoused, and we laughed at how our kids grow us. Some people need eight kids to grow. Others can do it with one.
It’s not about the numbers. It’s about the growth.
That was fun.
But there’s more.
Wednesday was Community Worship for worship team. In theory, all team members join together for the first hour to sing and pray together.
I haven’t been to a Community night for months, and I have never been on team with Ann Marie.
We arrived at the same time.
Wow! This is great! You are here for Community Worship?
*insert yada-yada-yada community worship banter here*
So there we were, practicing a song together, me thinking I am the only one not on team that night (there was one other).
To end the evening of community, we spent time as a group in prayer, offering up our requests directly, and then having someone join in agreement to pray for them.
She prayed for me.
I love my friend.
Who orchestrates stuff like that? It couldn’t have been planned by us if we tried. You don’t even want to know the craziness that is both of our lives right now!
Maybe I’m the only one, but I don’t think that I am.
Random triggers fire, hijacking me to places I though were left behind in the dust. I thought I had faced them, conquered, and won.
Who dares accuse us?
Who then will condemn us?
What will separate us from Christ’s love?
I read and journal and ask.
Pursue joy. Wrestle for your blessing.
Open your heart to wonder and beauty.
You are forgiven and you are free.
My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people.
Should the thing who was created say to the one who created, Why have you made me thus?
All I can do is sit here And all I can do is wait And all I can think about is the undone And how I will try to relate.
And my focus is not in the present It is racing around in the past While the future stretches ahead of me long Yet comes barreling down on me fast.
It’s a tough time. I don’t think that I’m alone. But if I am, that’s ok, too. Because I’m not really alone.
It’s amazing what we carry. What lies buried dormant, just waiting to emerge. To pounce when it’s least expected. To unleash on those who care for us the most.
Secrets and shame.
I have spent time with trusted friends, ones who love me, sharing my secrets. Naming my shame.
I have sat with others, those I love, listening to their secrets. Helping them name their shame.
One would think we could arrive at the place where we’ve got that thing taken care of, and it’s not going to surface again.
That’s not how it works, though.
We are all profoundly wounded souls.
None of us has escaped, will escape, the effects of the fall. It’s all painfully surrounding us. Every day. And it’s easy to see how we are wounded. How we have been wounded by others. It’s easy to carry that and allow it to name us. To keep us small.
We are all profoundly wounding souls.
Harder to see is how we wound others. That, too, painfully surrounds us. Every day. Sometimes intentionally, often not, it’s easy to lash out and name others. To keep them small.
It’s a struggle, I tell ya!
You struggling to stay married.
You struggling to stay sane.
You struggling with loss.
You struggling with shame.
You are not alone.
Prayers go up for all who are hurting.
Prayers go up for me, today.
Monday morning was eventful. Was it really five days ago? It feels like five months.
I dropped two girls at their loom knitting class, and drove with two remaining children to my parents’ house. Dad and I were going to enjoy tea and cake on the back patio, a day after Father’s Day date.
En route, my phone rang.
Can you meet us at the ER? the shaky voice on the other end asked. It was my mom.
I took a right instead of going straight and headed to the hospital.
It was the worst headache I have ever had in my LIFE!
Those are the words to listen for. Those and things like pain radiating down the neck, nausea, sensitivity to light. He hadn’t made it to fainting or seizure, yet.
Upon arrival at the hospital, I called my husband to pick up the children, so that I could go back to the treatment room. It was such comfort when my friend, Mike, walked in to begin to question and care for Dad.
I don’t want to bother anyone or waste anyone’s time.
It’s never a waste of time to check out unusual symptoms. Especially when one who knows you well says, Something is not right.
I’m glad Mom trusted her instincts.
A few headache screening questions, an explanation of procedures, and Dad was wheeled out of the room for a CT scan.
Can we pray? Asked Mom.
I remember praying for something to show on the scan if there was blood on the brain. I prayed that the doctors would know and that there wouldn’t have to be a further spinal tap to explore the source of or reason for the intense headache.
Dad was returned to us, and we laughed over things and waited.
The doctor’s urgency changed the atmosphere in the room.
Mr. K, there is blood on your brain. Something burst, and we need to air lift you to UVA Medical Center where they are equipped to care for such emergencies. This could get bad really fast.
A whirlwind of activity began as IV lines were started, further questions asked, preparation for air transfer made.
Oh my. There really WAS something to that headache.
A balloon feeling like it burst in your head is something.
By noon, Dad was being flown an hour away over the mountain.
Mom and I returned to her house to gather last-minute items and tie up loose ends. My brother and sister-in-law headed over to the medical center immediately.
Thus began a long week of questions, procedures, recovery.
My dad had a best-case-scenario brain bleed.
This means, it was a vein, not artery, that burst, and he still has his faculties about him. No further indicators of danger were discovered, but he was hospitalized for observation until his follow-up procedure today.
Hopefully he will be discharged tomorrow, if all is clear.
Late Monday night, as we returned home, I knew I didn’t want Mom left home alone. My teenage son agreed to sleep over in the guest room.
Tuesday morning after dropping the girls at loom knitting class, I stopped in at Mom’s for coffee.
I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck!
I knew I didn’t want Mom driving over the mountain to the hospital alone, so I made arrangements for the kids, and we spent the afternoon with Dad in his new room. I was mentally processing the week and what it looked like to care for both my mom and family throughout this ordeal.
I just got a text from Linda. She is coming to stay with me and is three hours away!
Not, She will try to come, if she can.
or If I want her to, she will come.
But She is on her way.
When someone lives nine hours away, three hours is practically there!
She is almost here.
I might have cried tears of relief and comfort.
When I returned Mom to her home Tuesday evening, Linda was waiting for her there. I left Mom in capable hands and comforting heart, and returned home to my family.
Thank you, Mrs. VG for showing up. Thank you for your kindness to my mom and dad and for your enduring friendship over the years. Just thank you. You are loved and appreciated.
We now come to the heartbreaking part of the pre-wedding festivities. I’m posting today, because just one week ago I heard that a dear friend was dealt a severe blow with a heavy diagnosis.
There is a story. Always a story.
Twenty-four years ago this August I was a bridesmaid in the wedding of my BFF. It was a difficult time for me, wanting to be married to the love of MY life and all, but the timing was not right, yet. We were celebrating her and her love.
The groom was ten years her senior, which made quite a difference in the makeup of the bridal party. My husband joked that there were all of these young-looking city girls matched up with older mountain men.
One of these older men was David Shank, and we conversed at the rehearsal dinner, our first real conversation. Our parents knew each other, and we may have met as children, but this was our first adult connection. He was excited about the date he had for the wedding, a Heather Snitko.
Sure enough, I met Heather the next day at the wedding, and thus began the Fusaro-Shank-McClay triumvirate. From that time on, children with one of those last names born into those families would never know a day when they weren’t friends. . .or at least acquaintances becoming reaquainted at church or a picnic or event.
Dave and Heather’s wedding took place months later, and by January 4, 1992, they were a young couple expecting their first child, attending our wedding. Their firstborn son was born that spring, and our daughter was born in the fall.
We moved to Virginia when our baby was 11 months old and settled in the Shenandoah Valley. That was 21 years ago, and while no one walks exactly the same path, our paths have been about as close as you can get. Large families, small church, a season of working together, a cross-country move thinking we wouldn’t see each other again, a return and reaquainting and readjusting, growing our children together.
Among the three families, there are 21 children, not including spouses and grandchildren. That’s a lot of people.
Last spring, we were excited to share in the wedding of a Shank son to a Fusaro daughter. There was much joy and celebration. They broke us in easily and paved the way for what was to follow in our life this year as we prepared for the wedding of our firstborn.
The Saturday before Katie’s wedding was a graduation party for one of the Shank daughters. There is always something to celebrate! While we were in an incredibly busy time and could have gotten a free pass to miss, I really wanted to go hang out with friends and celebrate with them the weekend before the last week of school and wedding.
We arrived, and Heather said that Dave was sick and was going to stay in bed. This was unusual but understandable, and we commented that we just wanted him to get better for the wedding. This was our turn to host our friends, and we wanted everyone there to celebrate!
Steve grilled the food that evening. That night my Facebook status was about being thankful for real-life friends in the midst of crazy chaos.
Then the real chaos began.
Dave was admitted to the hospital, because he was getting worse, tests were run, and on Wednesday afternoon, as I was trying up loose ends in my back office at school, Steve came and sat down.
He had his bad news face on. Dave had been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and was to begin treatment immediately. My first thought was but then he can’t come to the wedding!
Then I cried.
So there you have it. In the midst of incredible joy came incredible sorrow, and there you have living in the brokenness of this world. Both Dave’s daughter and daughter-in-law were in the wedding, and my precious friend Heather attended, but Dave was sorely missed, as he lay in a hospital battling an aggressive form of cancer.
Friends, there no guarantees. Seize the moment and live life today with those you love.
Those who wish to know more about his journey can follow a group praying for him on Facebook. And even without knowing all of the details, you can pray for him, because the spirit knows.
Bonus points if you can locate me and Dave in the picture!
For Steve and me, it’s our mantra, our verbal response, our acknowledgement that we have witnessed direct provision in a given moment. We have uttered it upon locating a lost pacifier in the middle of the night, finding extra money in the budget, or receiving a positive response to a last-minute babysitting call. It’s all Jehovah Jireh.
It’s what escaped my lips after barrelling down the rickety basement-cellar steps to root out the soccer box containing old uniforms, socks, and shin guards.
Weeks ago, I had retrieved the bin of cleats and found a pair that fit Roo and one that fit Coco, our two soccer players this season. Jehovah Jireh!
As the girls rushed to prepare for their first practice tonight, something wasn’t right. After painstakingly locating and lacing and tying up soccer cleats, it was Coco who asked about shin guards (or maybe it was Roo).
Shin guards! But, of course. Shin guards! That’s why it was only slightly more difficult than too easy to get ready tonight, in the fifteen minutes we had to spare.
Oh God, be with me in this time of need. The day has been long, and the end is far off, still. Please help me to find the box with the shin guards.
I barreled down the basement-celler steps.
I knew they were in a box. A brown, brown, opaque box with Soccer Uniforms or something written on TOP. Not even on the SIDE where it would be easily seen if it were in a stack with other brown boxes. I remember scrawling it there on top once upon the end of a soccer season.
There it was. The beautiful brown box, resting solo on an old piano bench or whatever people like us keep in basement-cellers.
You know in Christmas Vacation when the Griswalds finally come to the tree? It was that moment for me.