Sep 182009
 

My deepest fear is that my relationship with God is a fair weather friendship. I suspect that I love God mainly because He’s taken it pretty easy on me. I wonder sometimes if my prayers and rituals and devotion are really a frantic dance to keep Him placated and distracted enough to leave my family well enough alone. Because I suspect that if He took one of my children, I’d turn on Him, fast and furious. And so my faith has always been tenuous and conditional. But when Sunny, a long lost high school friend and the single mother of five, read my blog and sent me the story of her stepdaughter, Shayla… I began to wonder. The following essay is a gift Sunny offered me, and I asked her to offer it to you as Momastery’s first “Me Too” post.

Shayla Marie

Shayla is my ex husband’s oldest daughter. She came into my life when she was seven years old. Two years ago she was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While undergoing her first intense chemotherapy treatment, doctors discovered a very serious heart condition called long qt syndrome. This would require her to have a pacemaker. Because of a series of complications and infections she endured several heart surgeries. After going through torturous rounds of chemo and radiation therapy, at the tender age of eighteen, she lost her battle to cancer on January 28, 2009. Shayla was such an incredible child and young woman.

Despite her circumstances she always remained brave and had a tremendous concern for those around her. She displayed love unlike any other person I know. While she did not have any religious influence during her short life, there is no doubt in my mind that she has gone home to the Lord and I can’t wait for the day I get to be with her again. While she readily admitted that having cancer sucked, she never wallowed in self pity. She expressed to me on more than one occasion that she was concerned about the affect her illness was having on her friends. It was painful for her to see the look of confusion in her friends’ faces. Even when they had seemingly deserted her when she needed them most, she never harbored resentment toward them. On the complete opposite end, she wished THEY didn’t have to face the reality of having a friend that was terminally ill. Her heart, while physically weak was so full of compassion and love. I will always aspire to be more like her. There were two things that she said she wanted me to know before she died, how grateful she was that I was such a “good mom” to her little sisters and brother and that she was sorry she wasn’t a better big sister.
The things I admired most about her were her determination despite the odds stacked against her and her unwillingness to give up. Doctors told her she would not be able to attend school after she was diagnosed, she attended school at Osbourn High School in Manassas for a short period of time and completed the rest of her senior year with a tutor at home and in the hospital. During the period in which she was healthy enough to attend school, she also returned to work at a daycare center. She loved children and cherished the time she spent as a caregiver to two and three year olds. Doctors told her she would not be able to attend the prom, she looked so beautiful in the pink dress her father picked out for her. Doctors told her she wouldn’t be strong enough to attend graduation, I’ll never forget the roaring applause in Nissan Pavilion as she walked across the stage and accepted her diploma. Doctors said she probably would not live long enough to receive her “make a wish”, she took her trip to Hawaii last November and swam with the dolphins just like she said she would. She was not supposed to live much past thanksgiving and she rang in the New Year with friends and family by her side.
I was with Shayla the night she died. It snowed that day and when I saw the snow begin to fall, all I could think was how Jesus washes our sins away, and makes us white as snow. I somehow knew it was time for Shayla to pass on. While I never would have “signed up” to experience something like that, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have never been as close to God as I was that moment when I was hugging Shayla’s legs and whispering the Lord’s prayer as she took her last breath. It is a sad and tragic story of a life too short, but with a peace that surpasses all understanding, I am glad you asked me to share it with you. God uses all things to work together for His Glory, and He definitely used Shayla for His testimony of what true love really is.


According to Sunny, when the unimaginable happens, His grace increases unimaginably, and we are carried through. We are carried closer. If this is true…if His grace will always be sufficient…if there truly is nothing that can separate us from His love…then is it possible that we have nothing to fear? Nothing at all?

I have read that after losing a child, it is impossible for mothers to feel understood by anyone who hasn’t experienced the same pain. It is amazing to me that God planned for this. That when parents whose hearts have been shattered by the loss of a child cry out to Him, He can whisper, “Me Too.”

For more about Sunny’s faith and her remarkable family ….swing by

www.sunny-work-in-progress.blogspot.com.

Oct 092009
 

My friend, Chimmy, is a contemporary poet. She chooses and molds words like a sculptor with clay. She tastes words and adds or omits them, then stirs them up like a master chef. She flings words around violently sometimes and sets them down gently other times, like a dancer uses her arms to translate music. And the reason Chimmy’s brilliant is that she hears the music of life clearly, so she’s able to tell the truth of it, sharply and sweetly. I always think of artists as translators…they observe and experience life first, and then use their medium to try to explain their conclusions. And sometimes we meet an artist, or a dancer, or a writer whose conclusions about life match our own, and our heart beats faster, like a traveler in a foreign land gratefully recognizing her native tongue. Chimmy’s poetry makes my heart race.

Chimmy sent me several of her poems last week. I was honored. I sat at the computer and consumed them slowly, repeatedly, like they were chocolate. The power and depth of her voice overcame me like a wave. And then I got to one poem that I wasn’t sure I loved at all. I read the first two lines and started to feel twitchy, a little paranoid actually. I looked over my shoulder because I had the sensation of being watched. I kept reading the poem faster, frantically, even. I felt like I was reading a secret about myself that I’d never told anyone before, that I didn’t even maybe know myself. It was very, very strange. I considered the possibility that I really needed to start getting more sleep. So I went to bed.

Then, in the morning, I sent Chimmy this message:


chimmy.

i shouldn’t be surprised by your talent, but i am. you are magical.

your words are like a salve but also sort of scary and dangerous too.

i love all the poems, but “where powerful forces scatter”really affected me. i felt that one deep in my bones. i was kind of panicking and tingly as i read it. I felt like I was reading a secret about myself that noone was supposed to know.

don’t ever take me off your list. send me everything, please.

you are gifted.

love, glennon


And Chimmy wrote the following response:


I’m really psyched that you liked the RANT, especially ‘powerful forces’ because it, of all my ramblings was fueled in large part by the community you’ve brought together on your blog. In the only way I know to express it, it is sort of my “Me Too” or where thoughts of my “Me Too” took me. Your blog reaffirmed that connectedness I feel when I “feel” someone else’s words too. Our stories are all different threads of one tapestry generation after generation. So it goes for me anyhow.


And so, of course, when I read this, I cried. I know, I know, I overuse tears almost as much as I overuse italics. But I couldn’t help it, I was moved. Because apparently the poem that I felt was my soul secret, was my soul secret, told to me by a woman to whom I haven’t spoken, other than through writing, for 15 years. She read Momastery and she knew me through it and she knew herself through it, and then she offered me a one of a kind portrait of the two of us standing side by side. And all of you were in the portrait, too.

I just don’t know, friends. There is something to this offering of yourself and being open to the offerings of other women that is so healing.

So I sent this response to my Chimmy, my friend, my contemporary poet:


Chimmy.

It’s 6:24 am and I’ve been up for two hours trying to put together this morning’s post. I’m tired…and more than tired, I’m weary. I sometimes feel a little drained by this writing thing, this constant pouring out of myself. And by sometimes I mean always and by a little I mean a lot.

But then I started working on the post about you, and about your “Me Too” and about “where powerful forces scatter” and i just wanted you to know that if it’s okay, i am going to print your poem and keep it next to my computer to spur me on. the poem is just that powerful and inspiring and haunting to me. you are SO gifted chimmy. i don’t know what else to say but thank you.

you have a lovely, lovely day.

love,

g


Friends, here is the poem that is now taped to the wall next to my computer, so I can see myself and Chimmy, before I write to you each morning.


iii.where powerful forces scatter

you’ve spread your body

across this blaze before

laid upon this stone

laid down in this field

with ghost women

whirling high above

their incantations

whispered over your bones

you’ve already been broken

already healed

your wounds a treasured part

of your body’s story


somethingchased you here

pushed you into this

motionless serene moment

this peculiar pause


a body in motion

won’t collapse

a body at rest

the awkward way

bones gather in stillness

and all else fades to silence

and dark

is breakable


but you’ve nowhere else

to long for

nowhere to go

you collapse back

down into your soul


look at yourself in these words

floating between

breaking and breathing

the echoes of ghost women

in your voice

their haunting sorrow

their enduring joy

their unending stories

and sounds when you speak


Thank you, Chimmy, for the offering.

If you’re new to Momastery and you’re wondering how a few posts about milk and water and pans inspired such intensity, check out THIS or THAT, if you have the time.


Also, if you’d like, check out the foundation that Chimmy and her daddy started at www.walkingwithafricans.org .


Ya’ll have a beautiful weekend. I’ll miss you terribly.

Dec 012009
 

Our first guest post this week is from Adrianne, a fiery and soothing redhead who owns a large portion of my heart. Adrianne and I both love Jesus, our families, and each other- and neither of us sees much reason to change out of pajamas, ever. These four commonalities have proven to be enough to forge and sustain one of the most rewarding friendships I’ve ever enjoyed.

Adrianne wrote some kind things about me in this post, which was sort of against the rules. My instinct is to explain or joke them away. But instead, I am going to try to be a bit graceful and grateful this morning and just say thank you, friend. I love you, too.

Thanks and Praise

I met Glennon in the summer of 2005. My husband and I moved from DC to the burbs when I got pregnant with our first child. I didn’t have any friends in Northern Virginia, and I was desperate to make connections with other women. So I joined a group called Mothers First and before too long, I was a co-leader. A few days before one of our regular Tuesday morning meetings, I received an email from a woman named Glennon, telling me that she had recently moved to the area and was going to be at the next meeting with her toddler son. We were a friendly group of gals, always happy to have new moms interested in our group. I welcomed her and assured her that I would be there to greet her at the next meeting.

Our regular meeting place was the local library. I walked in holding hands with my daughter and checked in at the desk to make sure our room was reserved. I quickly glanced over at the sitting area and noticed a woman sitting in one of the chairs. A little boy was standing next to her. I vividly remember thinking, Oh, please don’t let that be her. In the one glance I had taken of Glennon, I decided that I could definitely, absolutely not be friends with her. She was impossibly pretty. She was also petite and curvy, which isn’t fair at all. Women should be one or the other, right? She looked like every popular girl in junior high who had ever been mean to me. Please don’t let that be her.

It was her.

Since then, I have grown to adore her. The more I learn about her, the more I like her. And I cannot tell you how much fun it has been to see so many of you grow to like her, too.

When I read Momastery and all of your lovely comments every day, I feel especially lucky to know Glennon in real life. So many of you only know her through her beautiful writing and her photographs. I suspect that many of you feel close to her, and believe me when I say that I know those cyber-relationships can be very real and meaningful. After all, I am a woman who met and pursued my husband on the internet. Our relationship began with emails and online chatting, and I loved him before I ever saw him. So I understand the power and intimacy of written correspondence. With that said, I also have to tell you that being in the same room with Glennon is really something. All the light and love that pour out of her writing also pour out of her eyes. Her face doesn’t only light up when she smiles. Her face is lit all the time. Her love of The Lord illuminates her. Yes, she really is as lovely as she seems. I’m telling you this because if I were you, this is something I would wonder about. I wondered the same thing about my husband back when I was first wooing him online. So for the record, the answer is yes. Glennon is the real McCoy. All of her kindness and humor transfer over into real life. I know. I can hardly believe it, either.

I am sure that Glennon is cringing as she reads this. She’s horrified that I am using my stint as a Momastery guest writer to tell all of you how wonderful I think she is. In the Melton household, bragging is a felony offense. Just ask Chase.

Now that I have taken my chance to assure you that Glennon is the real deal, it’s time for me to move on and say what I need to say.

The problem is, deciding what I need to say has been surprisingly difficult for me. You should know that it is only on very rare occasions that I find myself at a loss for words. Under normal circumstances, my problem would be narrowing down the list of hot topics that need my attention. I’m extremely opinionated, and I usually have a lot to say. I’m the same way when I pray. I have a lot tell God, and I often ramble at Him. But when I sat down to pray about what to write in this blog post, I tried hard to be still, not say much, and just listen.

I am sorry to report that I was unsuccessful. I was not able to turn off the dialogue running in the back of my mind while I prayed. Usually, that dialogue is a running ticker of my household to-do list. But this time, it was thoughts of thanks and praise that wouldn’t leave my head. While hoping for some divine writing intervention and trying to be still, my thoughts kept wandering back to this community. I am incredibly grateful for this cozy little piece of cyber real estate, and I can’t stop marveling at the revolution that recently started here. Eventually, I gave up trying to be still and pray like a grown-up. It occurred to me that maybe God wants me to just roll with what’s in my heart.

Here it goes.

Thank you, God, for putting Glennon in my life. I sometimes joke that I won the friendship lottery that day I met Glennon in the library. But I know that our meeting was no accident. God knew what I needed, and he gave it to me. He put her in my path because He knew she would share her stories with me, and He knew I needed to hear them. I needed to hear stories about suffering and bondage that end with hope and freedom. And I needed to hear them from one of the pretty girls for whom everything had always looked so easy.

Thank you, God, for making my friend Glennon your faithful servant. Because every time she draws nearer to her Savior, she brings me along for the ride.

Thank you, God, for Monkees. In a world where groups of female friends are often seen as troops of superficial girls scurrying off to gossip or talk about fashion, recipes, and dieting, you are a reminder that we are far deeper than our respective stereotypes. (I realize most of you learned this lesson the first time you saw The Breakfast Club, but these things take me a little longer.) Thank you, God, for helping us lift each other up and love each other and pray for each other rather than compete or judge. Thank you for giving so many Monkees the courage to share their joys and sorrows on this blog because every time I read it, I feel more hopeful than I did the day before. Thank you for leading me to a group of women who are trying hard to treat other people the way they want to be treated.

Thank you, God, for our Momastery. I think of this blog as a campfire by the sea. Glennon started the fire and invited the rest of us to join her. Because the fire has such a lovely glow and keeps out the cold, many of us were drawn to it and our numbers grew fast. Now some of us are adding fuel to the fire and most of us are crowding around it for warmth while our circle grows bigger and bigger. This fire of ours is just now starting to crackle and hiss and throw sparks high into the sky, and very soon we will stop having to crowd around it for warmth because our magnificent bonfire will give off so much heat that we’ll have room to dance, skip, jump for joy, and sing Hosanna to the highest if we are so inclined. The thing about our Momastery that I am most thankful for, Lord, is that it’s also a place where I am safe to just sit quietly by the sea, enjoy the warmth, and watch the others dance and feed the fire.

Thank you, God, for making my heart grateful today.

Thank you, Monkees, for allowing me to be part of the Revolution. Let’s keep it going, shall we?