Thursday, February 03, 2011

It's Hard to Breathe (or, Giving Thanks Anyway)

It's hard to breathe.

I lie here in bed, wadded tissues scattered across the flea-market quilt that should be warming my bones but really, it feels as if I'm covered with nothing. Or just wadded tissues. Yeah, it feels that light. But it's only the fever.

I've risen and fallen a dozen times today. Risen to bake bread and scoop granola into bowls, fallen to rest a body that aches from hips to the top of my spine. Risen to read scripture and find lowest common multiples and guide five-year-old's fingers as she weaves a potholder for her Nana. Fallen to the schoolroom sofa to close hot eyes just when Little Man crashes from a chair he's dragged to the stone hearth to reach the little wooden houses on the mantel. And I hold and kiss and start to scold him for something he's been reprimanded for a dozen times but I'd rather save my voice and save the extra tears for next time so I hush and kiss them away instead.

And by mid-afternoon husband is home with the aches and big nine-year-old boy has fallen to chills and we're a lump of blankets and tissues and matchbox cars, for Little Man thinks the lumps are perfect hilly roads and he drives while we sneeze and gasp for breath. (You pay tars? Me?)

All day, every time I've fallen, I've scooped up a gift, Ann's words, and read paragraph after paragraph, turning page after page to learn along with her the way to thanks and eucharisteo, and I think I will read it again and again and never tire of the lightning moments, the God-signs in the dust bunnies and the Spirit-whisper in the scrubbing brush, and I've risen and fallen in body and in thanks today, me just a heap of shaking bones and fickle heart.

I've thanked Him today for a bed, a roof, water... and yet I've groaned at the call to come wipe, the hunger pangs of young men, the aroma coming from his diaper... I've sung gratitude (hoarsely) for the breadmaker spinning calzone dough and the dryer spinning towels to fluff, for the sparrows at my window and the sky deceptively blue though the air is ice... and I've slumped at the stacks of dirty dishes and crayon marks on the dresser and clogs in the toilet.

How can I give thanks for the food and not the plates that hold evidence of full tummies? How can I give thanks for the water and sigh when a suffering little one asks for a drink? It's the ugly-beautiful, but I'm having a hard time seeing both of them together. Maybe one day I will finally begin to learn.

And by the way, it's still hard to breathe.

But just now, she came bounding in. All golden locks and long legs and pink fingertips leaping up next to me, propping her head on a pillow and flinging an arm across my chest. Her kisses pepper my nose and cheeks and chin and forehead; Yep, you have a fever, Mama, I checked the way you check!

In and out she comes, feet barely thumping up the hallway before they thump back to my door with a delighted laugh, I just can't leave you! and the flying leap again and the sprinkled kisses and the book falls to my chest and we touch noses.

Mama? I just love you, she murmurs.

I love you, too, Eliana! I whisper back, and when I sniff, she immediately reaches for the roll of toilet paper and thrusts it into my face. She watches me pull off a piece and press it to my nose, blow futilely, and fall back to my pillow still struggling for air.

And Mama? She kisses my cheek lightly. I hope you don't die, 'cause you're my favorite mama. I look close, and she's serious.

I never want my children to fear death. But when they bring it up in this way, with my leaving them, I want to run from it. But I don't. I say,

That's why I have to make the most of every minute! And I kiss her nose, her cheeks, her chin, her forehead. I need to get lots of kisses! (giggles) Do lots of dancing!

She slides from the bed to escape my silliness, still shrieking with laughter as she runs to the door.

And give thanks! she shouts as she thumps, this time for good, back up the hallway.

I'm stunned, as I lift the book from my chest and search the cover. My girl can't quite read yet, and I hadn't told her what my friend's book is about.

But give thanks? Yes, ma'am. I will.

Today's ugly-beautiful:

::tissues scattered (soft relief for tender noses)

::dirty dishes (tummies filled) (for now)

::red noses (bodies fighting infection)

::stripes on shirt and flowers on jumper (Ann Tabby made that jumper, and Eliana wears it every day. one can only assume that one will run out of complementary shirts eventually.)

::fighting for air ('cause not really, it's just the cold and flu, and we'll be better soon)

::tattered sweat pants and slippers (the freedom of wearing pajamas all day!)

::tangles in hip-length golden locks (precious mama-daughter time to comb them out)

::Little Man hitting his head (the joy of giving a lap full of grace)

::sick blankets everywhere (fun for Little Man and his precious cars)

::stinky diapers (the way a Mama washes feet, every day. Pure love.)

I'm learning. And counting. With every breath.

11 fellow travelers shared:

I Live in an Antbed said...

Her book turned me inside out, upside down. Your choice to practice eucharisteo brings Him glory. This was just simply beautiful. Thank you. May you all heal quickly.

Clare said...

Inspiring as always, even when you're ill :) Thank you for the reminder to find the ugly-beautiful. I can't wait to get Ann's book, but I have to save up for it because I live in New Zealand and the postage is at least twice the price of the book! The more I read people's posts about it, the more I know that I have something so special to look forward to :) Get better soon :)

Sandi said...

oh yes the ugly beautiful. I still don't do this well...learning with you.

I just got Ann's book today. Hoping for some quiet time tomorrow to dive in.

Hope you are better soon. Being sick Mama is no fun.

And I think of our smallest boys, so close in age. The same diaper bums and heads on fireplaces....sounds like part of my day :o)

Blessed to read your words.

jillian said...

Elise, This is a great post. Thank you.

A sweet midwife is flying here to China to deliver our 4th little one in our home next month, and she'll be bringing me a copy of this book too. Looking forward to that!

And until then, so grateful for your encouragement (and the music you've chosen) and all this ugly-beautiful wonder you've listed. May Christ be praised... and you all be well soon!

in Christ,
jill k

Stacy said...

And I'm going to pray for you to get well, friend!

I'm so sorry you're sick.

I loved all the snapshots of your day... and the image of Eliana bounding into your room, all light and joy. :) Sweetness.

Love to you and yours...

Andrea said...

Feel better, sweet Elise. Here is some virtual chicken soup sent your way..... wish it could be me bringing it to your door, shooing you off to bed and taking your children out of the house for a few hours. xxoo love you.

Linda said...

Oh Elise....wishing we lived nearby so I could come and offer hands to help. Instead I will hold all of you in my prayers.
And the book...I am feeling the same way. I want to read it over and over until it takes root and pours out through my own heart. How good the Father is to give such words to Ann; and how precious she is to do what has been hard with such a devoted heart.
Praying and sending love your way.

Christine said...

Praying for you and your little brood- that they will give you all the love you need to get through, and that you will heal and love right back (as I know you will). I still remember when we had little Eliana and Elliot as babies together and how they are now so big! Tangled curls and long legs! How fast they grow. I wish peace for you and a quick recovery, friend.

~nanashouse~ said...

I wish I could be there to cook, clean, wipe your brow and and bask in the sweetness of your family. I am praying for you :-)

CB said...

Eliana's words to you made me cry. What a sweetheart. Hope you all feel better.

Kate said...

I love Ann's book. And you, you get it, your ugly-beautiful praise is just beautiful.

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