Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Counting Blessings in the Chaos


Aunt and uncle just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Aunt couldn't believe so many came to help celebrate. "I can," I said. Because they've been a stable factor in so many lives. So many lives. Has all been good? Definitely not. But all's been and all continues to be. Stable. Through-the-years-stable. Within-our-control stable.




But a friend's husband just ended his life. She'll never celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary. She's trying to find the balance to carry on. To bring and keep stability in her kids' lives. To be stable in the midst of chaos and loss. To find a new through-the-years-stable. A within-her-control stable.

And she's left with numerous questions. Did the way I loved him count? Did I count? Did our years and all the contents inside count? 

If we can't continue to count the years, what can we count?

What can we count when we feel like a waste of breath?

We can count our blessings.







We can count what's stable in our lives.

Like what?

Like life. Like the air we breathe in. While we have breath. Breathe it in. Breathe it out.




Like God, who is stable, able, capable--the one who will be there when we have breath and when we don't.

Like love, love that comes our way. Like the love we can deliver. Maybe not from the one we want or to the one we want. But love comes and goes. We're receivers, and we're deliverers.




Like smiles. We can give and take those. And don't discount the frowns. When a smile has drowned, we can embrace the opportunity to ask, "What's wrong? How may I help?" 




Like rest. A place to sit. We'll never run out of those. Even the ground bursts forth with life.




  


Like railings. A place to lean. With another. The railings are beautiful--family, friends, God, faith, arms, shoulders.






Like goodness. It's always there, even in the badness. Will we look for it? Will we find it? Will we focus our lens on it? Will we be the good?



Like growth. Are we different today than yesterday?





If we live our lives counting our blessings, what's stable in our lives, dependable factors, maybe we'll find that we are celebrating daily.

When we can't count the years, we can make our years count.

And we'll find we are counting the years, our years.

And maybe we'll have become a reason to celebrate. Because when we count our blessings, we become a blessing.

Is there any wonder?

"I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing."--Ezekiel 34:26


~~~

What blessings can you count?




Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Being Rescued by a McDonald's Attendant


Every Sunday, she stood at the cash register at McDonald's and took our pancake order. The sweetest thing. A young girl with fair skin and blond hair. So friendly. 




I loved her instantly.

I always looked forward to seeing her sweet smile. Because she always seemed happy to see us. If my day had gone South, she'd lift me up, and we'd chat over this and that.

One Sunday, we'd arrived, and she stood off to the side. We made eye contact.

"I'm not working here anymore," she said and smiled. We chatted a bit. 

As weeks passed, I missed her.

Last week, I took my daughter to volunteer at a local veterinary clinic. She loves dogs and cats and wanted to see if that is something she could stomach. 


The kittens we found on our road. They were loaded with fleas. And they ran straight into our arms. One sat on the roadside, holding out her little claw, for a hitch-hike. :) We tease that their mama probably left them there to hunt for food and returned to find them stolen. Now, we ask ourselves, why did we stop? 
Love and hearts, y'all. Love and hearts.

Oh, my goodness, they were messy.

We had talked to the vet's wife beforehand, and she'd said how so many kids think this is what they want to do for a living, but it's amazing how a 6-foot tall young man can flatten like a pancake, by the smell of surgery. "It's not usually the blood," she said, "it's the smell."

We giggled. My daughter didn't think she'd have a problem. She's been through a lot in life and doesn't seem to mind needles, shots, blood. 

I dropped her off at 9 a.m. I waited and waited. I wondered how things would go.

At noon, I drove into the parking lot, got out, and went inside. Through the reception window, I spotted a familiar face. But it wasn't my daughter's face. Wait. It was the face of the young girl who'd worked at McDonald's. I couldn't believe it.

I smiled, hoping that was her. If it was her, she'd changed a tiny bit, grown up a little. I didn't say much, afraid of making a fool out of myself ... maybe it was another girl. 

But no. Her face lit up. She ran out to hug me.

"I didn't know you were working here," I said. "I came to get my daughter who was sitting through surgery today."

"That's your daughter?" She'd never really seen my daughter with me at McDonald's, because my daughter would always go find a seat to save for us while I ordered.

My daughter peeked around the corner, pale as a ghost. Uh oh.

"She got light-headed a few times today, but she's doing fine," my friend said. "I put her to work helping me in other areas when she didn't feel good."

"Mom, I was doing okay until I noticed blood dripping off the table. That kind of got to me." We all laughed.

We said our good-byes and hugged. 

Out in the car, my daughter said, "She was really nice to me today, Mom."

And I thanked God for using that sweet girl in my life, to help my daughter. Love had rescued my girl, thereby rescuing me. I never knew the love I'd felt for that young lady would be returned in such a sweet way. 






Blue & Hermione, better known as Miney. They are the sweetest cats. So loving. Those rescued know how to love. 
"Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. 
But he who is forgiven little, loves little."Luke 7:47










"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38


~~~

Has God blessed your efforts of loving-kindness? Do you have a story to share? I know you do. Please?!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

For Those Who Refuse To Live Shallow


Life's been a little hard. A little rocky. Lord? Oh, Lord?

I spoke with my mom on the phone. We talked about the hardness of life, and she said these words I'll never forget 

"Baby, you keep in God's Word. You stay in God's Word, no matter what."

"I will, Mom. I do, Mom."

Keep doing that thing, she'd meant. Love the Lord with all ... your all ... can't-get-enough-all. 

I'll stay in God's World  Word. As I wrote my mom's comment, I accidentally typed "world" instead of "word" ... is there a difference? 

Running out of Wal-Mart, Wally World, that evening, I noticed this ...




I stopped for a double-take. A tiny purplish petunia grew in the crevice between the cement curb and the parking lot. How beautiful.

Bloom right where you're planted.

But then I immediately thought of Matthew 13the parable of the sower.

"A farmer went out to sow his seed .... Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root." Mt 13:3,6

How sad.




And I knew this precious flower didn't stand a chance. Regardless of Wal-Mart's success, this little thing didn't stand a chance. Doomed. First of all, it's an annual, and in Texas, for sure, that means it only gets one chance at this life. One chance. Then it withers away, ne'er to return. Second of all, there was no where for its roots to grow, to grow down deep. What roots? It bloomed in shallow soil.

Here today. Gone tomorrow. All its precious seeds will blow away.

What does shallow even mean? Lacking depth ... depth of anything, I suppose. 

Oh, Lord, how I long for depth ... depth of you.

Shallow is safe. Depth is downright dangerous. 

Shallow seems pretty. Depth seems dirty.

The shallow isn't pretty very long ... like sitting prim and proper, wearing white shorts, wearing sandals to a race. 

The dirty is pretty for always ... like

The one standing by their child through every vial of blood drawn.
The one traveling overseas to meet their child for the first time.
The one remaining through every chemo drip.
The one staying up all night with a sick baby.
The one cleaning up throw-up, spit-up.
The one pulling every loose tooth.
The one digging out splinters from every tiny finger.
The one changing those soiled diapers.
The one feeding the child who can't feed themselves.
The one pushing the child who can't walk.
The one mending their child's broken heart.
The one guiding their child to appropriate dress through strong opposition.
The one shielding a child through bullying.
The one lifting up the child who failed.
The one hugging the child who didn't make the team.
The one preparing their child to leave home.
The one releasing their child to the armed services.
The one helping their child overcome obstacles.
The one swallowing their child's diagnosis.
The one leaning over their child's casket.
The one wiping away every tear cried.
The one praying over their child.
The one offering ...

In Jesus' name.

The scary, the dirty, the beautiful.

Our kids remember everything we invest in them and everything we don't.

On the surface ...

I'd rather be doing this or that. Sometimes I want those white shorts, with white sandals, sitting prim and proper on some white sand.

But down deep ...

I don't want a shallow pretty. 




I want my hands and my heart to get dirty.

I want my kids to remember an investment, in them, in others, in God.

Remember when Mama did that? or My mama never did that.

I want to be a sower. I want to be a Mama-did.

I want to bloom deep and wide where I'm planted.

Walk me out, Father. Walk me out to dangerous territory, your dangerous territory. I want to reside in your world in this world. Take me out to the dirty work. Because that's where my roots will grow. Grow down deep. In good soil. Thrive. Really live. Last for eternity.

We only get one chance at this life. 

One chance.





**

What can you add to the dirty, dangerous, beautiful list? For your kids, your family, your friends, your animals? And how have you grown from the experience?


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

When You Stop Coasting Through Life and Feel the Pain of Shifting Gears



The weather has been gorgeous. Shorts weather, y'all. 

The girls get on their bikes. My bike is in need of repair, so much like me, so it's nestled in the storage building.

I take off at a brisk walk down that county road. The girls linger near, pedaling slowly, to stay near me. They'll speed up a bit, circle back around, in order to stay near me. Their gears are so loose that they remind me of the "wicked witch" riding her bike in The Wizard of Oz. I resist giggling.




We reach the gate, the turning point. And I start a tiny, very slow jog. I haven't jogged in .... And it is obvious .... My oldest sees my slight jog. A slow smile spreads like the warmth of the rising sun on a cool morning. I know she thinks I'm ridiculous. 

She confidently says, "I'm going to ride my bike like this every day from now until mid-summer because I want to get my legs in shape."

As I jog slowly, putting one foot in front of the other very carefullycareful not to put my foot in a hole on our road or in my mouthI glance over to see her coasting. Trying to stay alongside me, at my slower pace, she only pedals every now and then, only to resume her coast.

My smile spreads. "I don't want to discourage you, but you won't build muscles coasting." 

She knows I love her with my whole being. 

She grins. She pedals fast and furious ... leaving me in her dust. "Is this better?" she hollers back. We laugh.


I keep my slow and steady jog. We pass our driveway and continue ... they want to go farther. I finally stop and begin to walk. She's reached the end, and she circles, heading back my way. I turn toward home. 

I hear her moaning and groaning. 

"Ow, ow, ow ... this stings." She laughs. "I changed gears." She's riding beside me now, barely able to turn those pedals. And the road is slightly inclined now. We've changed direction. And she's feeling the pressure.

"We won't be able to walk tomorrow," I say. "Nope"I've reconsidered"we won't feel it tomorrow. But two days from now, we'll feel it, and we'll have already forgotten what caused it. Why am I so sore?" 

We agree and giggle. 

"That's life," I say. 

Sometimes we coast through life ... all's good ... nothing hurts. Or at least it seems that way. Pedal fast and furious. But we're often uselessly weak. No muscle. But when the gears shift, and we feel the sting, that's when the real change comes. How tempting it is to break down and stop, shift to easy street, if only we could. But that's when we're building muscle. That's when we are gaining strength. 

When it's harder to pedal ... we slow down, we feel the incline, but we often see things along our path that we'd have never noticed before. Sometimes we're even able to stop and help othersuse our stings to encourage others.




God knows where we need to change, what we need to change, why we need to change. He knows the growth we needthe painful growth.

Even when the slow down is painful, I want to remember ... and I want to trust.

Father, give me the strength to pedal hard and far in the slow down.


**

What motivates you to keep pushing through the pain? Can you share a painful moment in life where you grew more in love with God, grew in strength? I'd say my first real painful growth was when my father left our family. It hurt so much, but I reached out for my Heavenly Father. And I love using those stings every chance I get.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Failing Doesn't Make You a Failure


Sunday morning on the way to church, my oldest daughter said, "Mom, I'm reading through each Gospel, comparing the words spoken." And my heart soars that she cares.

"I have a question," she said. She read this to me:

" 'As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

" 'Don't be alarmed,' he said. 'You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter.' "Mark 16:5-7

And Peter.

"Mom, why do you think the angel singled out Peter?" she asked. "He was a disciple." (my NIV study notes state that the 'young man' was an angel)

Why wasn't he lumped in with the team? she'd wondered.


And sometimes we wait for the answers ...




I certainly don't know all the answers, but I turned around from the front seat, peering into the back, and told her something like this

"Baby, do you remember what Peter had just done to Jesus? He had just denied Him three times. Three times." And without my Bible in front of me, I said, "Do you remember how Peter tore his clothes? Peter was miserable. He may have even hated himself for what he'd done, what he'd done to Jesus, to himself, to his team. He'd done wrong, and he hurt the one he lovedJesus.

"And you know, I imagine everyone had heard what Peter had done," I continued. "You know how word gets around. And I wouldn't be surprised if some considered Peter completely useless. A failure. And I'm sure Peter felt like a failure. Useless. Could the 'team' have even considered him useless? A failure?

"But what a sweet lesson ... the angel was telling them not to forget about Peter. He's still in this game. He's still use-able. And the angel singled him out, showing how important he still was in spite of his imperfectionsGod had great plans for Peter. Don't give up on Peter. Include Peter. Go ... tell Peter."

And what a joy to find the answers. My daughter's smile grew, her eyes enlarged with a glow. She had caught the excitement of exactly what God can do for us




Peter had been caught and kept. He wasn't thrown back because he was too small, not worthy, didn't measure up.

Praise God for Peter's story, because that means there's hope for me. I've felt like Peter. I've let down others, let down myself. I've mourned yesterday.

And like Peter, something whispers to me, "Failure."

The tempter continues, "You should have been ..."


And with tears pooling, I'm hooked captive to failure.

But God singles me out. He frames my face with His hands and whispers into my heart, "Failing doesn't make you a failure."

Truth within my heart perseveres.

Failing is God's heavenly lure to keep one striving, loving, hoping, and serving.

We've been caught and kept. Praise God, we're still in this game. 




And ... (insert your name here).

Take hold of the lure and be encouraged. Let Jeremiah 29:11 ring your heavenly lure's bell today" 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the LORD, 'and will bring you back from captivity.' "


**

Have you felt like you've let down God? Let down others? Have you felt like a failure? Have you seen God turn your failures around? Do you have anything to add to my daughter's question? I'll tell her your input ... I promise!



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Day I Ran Away from Home



You take my hand. And one hand guides me. 

"Dear Jesus," I whisper ...

Do you remember that time I ran away from home? You do. I know you do. I was just an itty bitty thing, only in elementary school. I can't believe I still remember it. But I do.

You take one step forward, and I follow.

My sister and I decided to run away from home. We didn’t have a good reason. My older sister thought it was a brainy idea, to the best of my recollection, and I followed.

We collected our baby stroller, our baby dolls, a little food and drink, and walked out the door as the sky was dusking. Mama even helped us pack, gave us hugs, and watched as we headed down our quiet neighborhood street pushing our baby strollermy sister's hands on one side of the handle, mine on the other. 




As we neared the end of our street, we realized we had nowhere to go. We found ourselves surrounded by darkness and loneliness. Would we turn the street corner and continue on or head straight into the forest facing us? Neither choice seemed like a good option. Desperate, we looked behind us to see Mama, with the porch light on, up on the hill, watching us, beckoning us to come home.




We immediately turned around, with all our baggage, and ran back as fast as our little legs could carry us. 

You twirl me away from you.

Thank you for Mama. Because she taught us a valuable lesson that day. Oh, she wouldn’t have let us go far. She was waiting for us to see that we had no place to run but to her arms, where we were loved and safe.

You twirl me back in to you.

Jesus, the same incomparably comparable thing happened to you. Didn't it? I've heard your stories. And I believe every one. 

You step to the side, and I follow.

Your Father let you go down the road for a while, as you carried your cross to the hill. And the light was turned off for three days. 

Three days.

I can't even begin to imagine.




Your Father watched. He never lost sight of you. 

And then something beautiful happened. Something miraculous. Your Father turned on the porch light. He beckoned you home. And you rose from the grave. Nothing could keep you from home, from your Father, from me.




You take a step back, and I follow.

That day Ia little fair-skinned, blond-headed girlwalked down the street, on 1524 Milam Drive in Tyler, Texas, I'm so glad my sister turned around to go home, so that I could follow. But one thing I've learnedthere comes a time when we have to make our own decisions. Our own decisionto go home.

You step to the side, and I follow.

I haven't always followed you the way I should have. My bucket of regrets from my youth is deep. What was I thinking? I wasn't thinking. I followed after things and people I knew were wrong. They weren't you. It felt like I died a slow death, and some days it feels like I'm still trying to dig and scrape my way out of the dirt, out of the open grave.

You step forward, and I follow.

But you, Jesus. Thank you for being the Light, my light. Thank you for your outstretched arms. For being my safe place. For giving me a place called home, a place to call home, a place to run to. For braving the dark and lonely for me. For loving me. Thank you for your testimony and for giving me one. 

You dip me, and I laugh. Your grip on me is strong. You lift me back steady on my feet.

You place your face to mine, and I whisper, "Dear Jesus" ...

You are one decision I'll never forget, one I'll never regret.

Through the good and the hard, thank you for this beautiful dance.























Happy Easter. What are you most thankful for this Easter? Did you ever see the movie The Passion of the Christ? I remember the first time I saw it, I walked away thinkingwhat can I do for you, Jesus? Do you remember what played through your mind?




Tuesday, March 15, 2016

When You Need God's Peace


I plop myself down on the church pew. I pull out my Bible and my pen. I've never felt so needy in all my life. My daughter hands me a church bulletin.




I'm a people-pleaser. I've been that way all my life. That's why my mother's house was spotless when I lived there. When I cleaned the house, she'd praise me, and my soul must have soaked it in. Because I worked hard to keep our house clean. I liked my mom coming home from work to a clean house. And when she called me her white tornado, well, I gloried just a bit in that. 

While I sat there on the pew, my needy mind reflected back to earlier in the week, when I knew I'd let someone down

I'd made my way to the dentist's office for my own repair work and had pondered the situation on the trip there. And as I sat there waiting for the dentist to arrive, I could see the assistant behind me, her back turned away from me. And I thought about the wrongs I'd done. The wrongs I'd been informed about earlier ... earlier in the week, earlier in my life. I hadn't really needed informing, I knew. Oh God, I knew. And my whole body ached to sob. To really sob. More than just a cry. My tummy started convulsing right before me, uncontrollably, as tears gathered in my eyes. This hand went up and wiped away the moisture. The other hand lifted to wipe away moisture. The dental assistant was still turned away from me. No one saw me. No one could see me. Please Lord, don't let anyone see me. They don't know my situation, my wrongs. They'll think I'm crazy. I cannot let them see me cry. 

I give myself a pep talk. "Pull it together, Shelli. Put your mind somewhere else." And I did. And I overcame ... for the time being. 

And all week, I'm thinking about peace. My Savior came that I could have peace. I know it's there. It's at my disposal. So why is my tummy hurting? Why is my mind focusing on the wrong and not the right? Jesus is the right. 

And I turn my church bulletin over to the notes section, where I'll be filling in the blanks. And there I read in bold letters, "JUST WHEN I NEED HIM MOST." And I wondered if my pastor had read my mind. Did he cater his sermon just for me?




And I prayed quietly, "Lord, I want your peace."

And it seemed like the Lord said to my heart, "When you need God's peace, reach for a piece of God ..."  I quickly scribbled that down. And then it seemed like He whispered to me, "When you need my peace, reach for a piece of me."

And I began to think about "a piece of God." What is a piece of God? His Word, His people. A hand. A hug. A listening ear.

And the pastor spoke Philippians 4:19 over the congregation, "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

My God is the provider ... the provider of needs. The One who fills in my blanks.

It's His praise I need, and it's His praise I should long to receive. 

Please, Shelli, focus on pleasing the right One. That's what matters. Fill your heart and head with the right Onethe One who cleans our insides, who rights our wrongs, who gave us The Word, who put amazing people in your life to encourage you, to love you .... He's the amazing tornado. Not you, not anyone else.

And as we bowed our heads to pray, I look over at my sweet daughter's hand. I reach out and take it. She clasps her hand around mine. 






















Have you ever disappointed another? How did you overcome? Are you a people-pleaser, like me? How do you reach for God's peace?

Monday, March 7, 2016

God Loves You Enough to Frame You


There was nothing particularly special about this day except that ... I had to take my daughter to a dental appointment, to a periodontist, for an evaluation of tissue grafting. Her braces have shifted her teeth, which is a good thing, but the gum line for one front tooth has dropped down ... and it looks like the one next to it might end up with the same problem. 

For goodness sakethe problems.

We had to drive through the big city of Mesquite, Texas, and up to Richardson. I'm a small town girl, but glory hallelujah, we made it. By accident, of course. And by accident, we ended up walking into the back of the building, and the first door we came to was our needed door. Another accident and another glory hallelujah.

Sitting in that waiting room, all alone with my two girls, I looked up to the wall and saw this huge frame. I almost laughed out loud when I saw the displaya rug. A small rug. Not new or old ... just a little bold. Bright green and fuchsia pink. A little frayed around the edges. Maybe there was something special about it ... like maybe it belonged to his grandmother or his mother or someone the dentist loved.




I said to the lady behind the counter, "Ms. Kelly, what is the story behind that rug?" Did you really just ask that? Out loud? To someone you just met? Yes, I did.

"It's a funny thing," said Ms. Kelly. "There's nothing special about that rug. You'd think it had belonged to his grandmother or something. You'd think it had sentimental value."

"That's what I thought," I said, with my grandmother's kitchen rug placed in my mind.

"But it doesn't. The doctor and his wife, well, they like to antique shop. And well, they just found this rug, and they decided to frame it," Ms. Kelly added.

"Well, you know, that's really what makes it so special," I said. "There's nothing special about it at all. It's just an ordinary rug. But someone found it. Someone loved it enough to frame it."

And that's why I love God so much. Because I'm just ordinary. I'm not young or old. I'm not even bold. I'm a little frayed. There is not one special, unique thing about me. Not to my eyes. 

But not to God's eyes. He loved me enough to make me, to find me, to reach down to me ...

It's like He daily frames my face in His hands and says, "You are special to me. I love you. I want you. I love you, and I want you with all your problems. I know what you've done and what you haven't done." 

He straightens the frame just a little and eyes me. "Look at me. Look at me. I'm the door you need."

And just like thatour ordinary becomes extraordinary. How could it not?

And just like that, we become guilty of being special. Of being wanted. Of being loved.



~~~

"He sends from heaven and saves merebuking those who hotly pursue me—God sends forth his love and his faithfulness"Psalm 57:3. 

Call me crazy, but I like to think of God's hands as "love and faithfulness" reaching down to save. Amen? Can you envision it?

And because sometimes I just need to talk to you face to face ... I love you ...



If you hear that hammering in the background ... that is our neighbor's home being rebuilt. Glory! It burned to the ground last September. 


**

Do ever feel ordinary? How has God shown you how extraordinary you are? Has He shown you in a unique way how special you are to Him? How much He loves you? I wish you'd share your stories with me.






Tuesday, March 1, 2016

To the Youngest Cancer Survivor


I slid my finger to open the envelope's seal, and as I pulled out the invitation, a rush of memories came spilling out


My whole body trembled, while my heart peeked past the fingers sheltering it. I wanted to hide in the locker room. A crowd always makes me tremble. But I pressed forward, one step at a time, through the parking lot, through the grass, until the sky opened up.

Two little trusting bodies tagged along.

Tables had been placed everywhere, and people scattered here and there, passing out flyers of information. Some in a hurry, some sitting and talking, some eating.

"Let's get you all signed up," said the lady.

"Okay," squiggled out of my mouth. I would have been biting my nothingness of a fingernail had I not been holding my littlest.

I always held her, or at least held her hand, because I didn't want her falling. She'd been hurt enough. And the chemotherapy she'd takenVincristinehad damaged her ankle strength. Her tiny one-year-old ankle strength. Vincristine ... sounds like such a sweet name, doesn't it? I have a love/hate relationship with Vincristine. It helped kill any wandering cancer cells for which I'm so thankful, but I didn't like the big hook that went into my baby's chest for each treatment. And I didn't like the way it weakened her walk, in every aspect. Vincristine treated her good, and Vincristine treated her bad.

"Here are your T-shirts. Everybody put them on." The lady smiled.

I evaluated my Relay for Life T-shirt, wondering how I'd wear it over my overalls, while my oldest daughter put on hers. The littlest got the cutest T-shirt with a kid in a cowboy hat, riding a stick-horse, and it proudly displayed the most beautiful words: Kids Kickin' Cancer.

The lady stopped us. "Wait a minute. Do you know what? Katelyn is our youngest cancer survivor. She sure is."

At now three years oldthe youngest cancer survivor.

I must have bit my lip. And then I might have scrunched my nose. Being the youngest cancer survivor is such an honor. Or is it? Good to be a survivor ... bad to have cancer ... What baby should ever have cancer? I was still making my way through the whirlwind. Trying to figure it all out. What have we just endured? Oh, God, what have we endured?

I'd been so tough until a year or so after it all. And the pictures of hair loss, paleness ... it just all came washing over me. I lost it. Working on that baby's photo album, I lost it.



"Follow me," the lady said. "You've won this prize for her being the youngest survivor." She handed me a sack of lotions and make-you-feel-better stuff. It was sweet. And her heart was so precious. "We'll do the survivor's lap first. You can walk with your daughter. And then you can walk the caregiver's lap. So be ready when we call for you." 

"Okay." We placed our belongings down on the stadium bleachers. The girls opened up their pink umbrellas to fight off the Texas April sun.





Look at those curls on one. And look at that proud sister smile on the other.

And just like that, we were up. We began walking the lap around the stadium track. I held my littlest's one hand, and her big sister held her other. She would not fall.




And my cautious expression eased to a smile at the love and friendliness that welcomed our baby. And then hands began to clap, as pictures were taken, and military men began performing what my heart could barely takethey fell down to their faces and began push-ups.

People we didn't even know. They fell to their faces.

Tears gathered in my eyes and air seemed scarce. 

As we made our way to the other side of the track, those people walked to the other side, clapping, and the men in uniform ran to the other side to fall to their faces again.

When the caregiver lap began, they did the same. And more tears. More clapping. More push-ups. 



My heart felt overwhelmed at the love shown to the youngest cancer survivor. But I especially couldn't believe the love shown for me. Because every ounce of effort I had made on my littlest one's behalf was out of love. I had only done what any parent would do ... to the youngest cancer survivor.