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A Good Ache

Around nine years ago I was told my mom was going to die. Many of you have followed the story and you know that she just kept on living.

She lived through a hospice stay.

She lived through a liver that was busted.

She just kept on.

I used to say she had nine lives. Her latest life was in Florida, living on her own, swimming most days, enjoying life. But a few months ago she called me up and told me that the Lord told her this was going to be her last year to live. I don’t know if I believed her, but I listened. She said she had a bucket list, and one of the things on it was to go to the “Dolly museum.”

Me: You want to go to the Dolly museum? Like, Dolly Parton??!

My mom: No! The Salvador Dali museum!

Much better. The Dali museum in St. Petersburg Florida. And she wanted to eat a seafood feast overlooking the ocean. Yes, okay, I told her I would find a way. She wanted me to come in April, but I told her I couldn’t, Thailand and all. So we decided on the weekend of May 12th. I booked a ticket and she booked a hotel room.

I went to Thailand. I came home and slept. I never called her.

After sleeping for a week, I got a call, on a Wednesday. I was dropping my daughter off at a friends. It was a Florida number.

“Hi Sarah, we need to talk about your mom. Should we resuscitate or not if your mom goes into cardiac arrest?”

“What? What are you talking about? Listen, I know nothing, can you please fill me in?”

The woman on the other end, an “end-of-life counselor” or something like that, told me my mom was in the hospital and she wasn’t doing well. I asked when she had been checked in and she said April 5th. It was April 20th.

My hands were shaking. Everything felt hot. I asked to talk to a doctor. He called. He said things like, “We can’t treat her liver because of the blot clots…we think we found cancer…hemorrhaging…lethargic…infection in the blood…comfort measures.”

I went home and booked a ticket to Florida for early the next morning. As I landed in Florida, I saw that I had missed two phone calls from the hospital. I called while the plane was pulling up to the gate. “Is she okay?” I answered? They had to do some procedure they needed permission to do. My sister gave them permission.

I just kept praying. “Please God, just don’t let her die before I see her. And please let me be able to talk to her, I want her to see me.”

I got my car rental, drove quickly, got to the hospital, and found her room. I heard her before I saw her. She was yelling.

I walked in and went right up to her and took her hand and said, “Sar-ey is here”. She used to call me Sar-ey. I tried to get her to look at me but her eyes just stared up to the ceiling. Every 5-10 seconds she would yell and try and move.

“I’m here mom. I’m here. It’s okay.”

No response. Just yelling and eyes to the ceiling.

“Comfort measures” they all said. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

It means you need to look at putting her in hospice and making her comfortable as she dies.

But what if she isn’t dying?! I’ve been through this before.

Two days ago she talked to my sister and told them she was getting out. She told her cousin we were going on our trip. She was talking. But I missed it. Because I never called.

Can we just try and help her brain to clear up? Can you give her that medicine, please, just one more time?

One more time.

Yelling. Eyes to the ceiling.

Pain meds. The more you give, the worse it makes her because her liver doesn’t process anymore. Ease her pain or kill her. That seemed the choices. Excruciating.

I got to the hospital on Thursday. On Friday I made the decision to have them stop all treatment and have her admitted to hospice. While I waited for them to pick her up, I rubbed her hand and talked with her.

Was I making the right decision? Was I killing her?

Excruciating.

We got to the hospice and they couldn’t get her pain meds because the doctor couldn’t be reached and she was yelling and God, it was so awful.

Eyes to the ceiling.

Finally the meds.

Yelling off and on through the night.

I cried and prayed and cried and was torn up over whether or not I was doing the right thing. Could she have gotten better? Did I cut treatment too soon?

Excruciating.

Morning and silence. No more yelling, just breathing.

The doctor came in. “How long will it take for her to die?” I asked. “The body could take 5-7 days to shut down with no food or water” he told me. I had to leave the next day. She’ll die alone. And I’m killing her.

“God, please don’t let her die alone.”

My in-laws were in Florida visiting family and so they were only two hours from where I was. They came to see me. I asked my mother-in-law to go with me to my moms apartment so I could see it and get a few things. It felt wrong to be in my moms place without her there. It felt wrong to start touching and moving her things. We spent about two hours there, looking for pictures and journals and anything I could take with me.

When we got back to the hospice, a counselor came in and asked if I had any questions. “No.” I said.

But my mother-in-law said she had a question. “It doesn’t seem like it’s going to take 5-7 days for her die. Is that really true?”

The counselor looked at her and said, “No. Do you hear that gurgling in her throat? That’s her lungs shutting down. She could go today.”

Grace.

And sadness and relief and deep ache.

My in-laws left so I could be alone with my mom.

I didn’t leave her side.

And then I knew. The gurgling stopped and there was just breathing.

I pulled my chair up close and cried and played her music and held her hand and rubbed her head. I knew she was going to go soon.

I said things to her, special, sacred things that are for her alone.

All this time her eyes just went back and forth and back and forth.

And then her eyes stopped.

I walked over to her other side where I stood, watching her breathe. Listening.

“You’re almost there mom. Almost done. I’ll be right here with you.”

And like a clock winding down, her breath just wound down.

Slower and slower.

And then,

it was gone.

Just stillness.

7:16pm.

On April 23, 2016 at 7:16pm my mom took her last breath. She went home.

“You give life, you are love, you bring light to the darkness. You give hope, you restore every heart that is broken. Great are you Lord. It’s your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only.”

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Susan Lynn Sherman Potts | 8/9/52 – 4/23/16

SM

From Darkness to Light (a post written by my mom on how she quit drinking)

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Moms, Even Jesus Took Rest

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Today’s post is from my friend Ruth. Enjoy!

Taking a break from all of the to-dos isn’t something most moms do easily.

I sat on the couch just to take a break after a busy day at home. Feeling a bit worn-out from taking care of the kids, refilling drinks, answering endless questions, and trying to keep the house from burning down, I needed a rest!

Within minutes, out of the large picture windows on the eastern side of our house, I could see my husband’s car. Just over the small hill about a block away, I saw him pulling onto our street—almost home.

I immediately jumped up.

I was sure that if he walked in after a busy day at work and I was just sitting on the couch, he would think I had done nothing all day. I had to look busy. All the time. After this scenario played out multiple times over several months, I finally came to my senses.

What on earth was I doing?!

I decided to ask my hubby what his thoughts would be if he walked in and I were sitting on the couch. He looked at me like I was a little crazy and assured me that he wouldn’t think anything about it. What?! For all those months my own faulty thinking had tricked me into believing I couldn’t rest, not even for a minute.

Rest is a difficult concept, especially for those of us living in a western culture that places a high value on action. We quietly feel condemned or ashamed when we’re doing nothing. Some of us are afraid to sit, relax, unwind, or do nothing for too long. We have this imaginary voice telling us, “Get up; do something. There’s work to be done. Don’t rest. There is too much to do!”

But when I read the Bible, I see multiple examples of Jesus resting. He often got away from the masses. He snuck away to quiet places. He rested.

I have come to understand that the only way to pour out the best of who I am to my family and in my ministry is to sloooooow down. Make time for the moments of life. Be still. Settle my soul. Press pause and just relax.

The housework? It will still be there tomorrow.

Let’s pray together:

Father, help me to find my rest in You. Be my strength. Quiet my soul. In all that I have to do as a mom, give me rest. Enable me to relax, knowing that my life is found in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

To think about:

Why do you find it difficult to slow down and rest?

How can you make time for rest?

This devotion was taken from Pressing Pause:100 Quiet Moments for Moms to Meet With Jesus.

Whether you’re juggling a career, kids’ schedules, and church commitments or you’re covered in spit-up and anxious about what the next eighteen years might hold, you can carve out a few quiet moments to rejuvenate your spirit.

Pressing Pause offers you a calm way to start your day, to refresh yourself in Jesus and drink deeply of His presence so that you are ready to pour out love, time, and energy into the people who matter most to you.

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You don’t have to get up early to be successful

I didn’t sleep through the night for seven years.

Those were the years of babies and toddlers and someone at some point was always awake or needed something or had a bad dream or threw up. This was life.

When my children got a bit older, a miracle happened: they all started sleeping through the night AND they started sleeping in (HANG IN THERE MOMS OF LITTLE ONES!). Which meant, I got to sleep through the night and I got to sleep in. You better believe I made up for those seven years by enjoying that sleep in time (and by sleep in, I mean 7:30/8:30-ish).

Those seven years I was in a fog. I was used to the fog though, so it wasn’t terrible, I was just tired all the time. I went to the doctor once to tell him I thought something was wrong with me because I was always so exhausted, and after a few questions he asked like, “How old are your kids? Are you still getting up in the middle of the night?” Etc., it was obvious that I was actually just tired from mothering.

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Me in 2009 with a baby and two toddlers

After some good sleep-ins, I decided I wanted to be that person that got up early, spent time with Lord, and got stuff done before my kids got up. At one point last Spring I even started getting up around 4:30am to go workout. I always believed there was something special about getting up while it was still dark and enjoying some quite hours to myself; there is something peaceful about it. Plus, there are so many books on how getting up early is what all the successful people do. HUSTLE, they say. JUST DO IT, they say. YOU’LL GET SO MUCH MORE DONE, they say. So I did. I worked on getting up early. In fact, I spent 6 months getting up around 6am as a life experiment. I’m glad I did it. But you know what I learned?

I’m more tired when I get up early. I don’t get more done. I always need a nap.

Turns out, I function better when I sleep in a little bit. I’m happier. I don’t need a nap. I’m not exhausted all day. And? I’m more successful when I don’t get up early.

And here’s what I know about success:

Success for me is not feeling crummy and tired all day. It’s being kind. It’s doing the things I want to get done during my day, whether that’s writing or cleaning or visiting a friend or homeschooling my kiddos well and without being cranky. When I get up early, life is a foggy mess. I’m cranky, I’m tired, I get less done (because I’m cranky and tired), and I’m not the kindest person. And it doesn’t matter if I go to bed earlier. Speaking of which, my husband HATES when I go to bed early. He likes to stay up and he wants me to stay up with him. If I stay up, I definitely can’t get up early. I know this about myself. My husband has the amazing super-natural ability to stay up late and get up early. I do not have that super power.

ALL TO SAY… it’s okay to not be a ninja 5am-er. Maybe you’re a ninja 9am-er, or 10pm-er, or never because you’re just so tired and so WHATEVER. No ninja. That’s okay too.

The point is, don’t think you have to get up early to be successful. Everyone is different! God made it so. Embrace who you are, do what you gotta do, define success, and then? Onward!

SM

P.S. I’m over at The Better Mom today talking about how I no longer want to be a “good” homemaker. Check it out HERE.

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When You’ve Never Set the Table (On Motherhood and Feeling Like You Keep Dropping the Ball)

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With Amy, who clearly makes better decisions than I do.

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.” Ecclesiastes 4:9

I was at my friend Amy’s house today, and as usual, she ended up speaking life right into my weary bones.

I’m beginning to think I’m just blogging these days to share her thoughts and wisdom. Which is fine by me because she is a beautiful, wise, gracious soul. Anyway, after about 3 hours of zero conversation because we had between us 8 kids (ages 2, 3, 7, 7, 8, 8, 10, 10…like whoa), and I was beginning to think we would never even finish a coherent sentence when the Lord carved out about 20 minutes of solid conversation between us, mostly which went like this:

Me: “I feel like I’m always failing at motherhood, I just keep dropping the ball. And I have a lot of fear…I just don’t know what I’m doing with my life.”

And then I start crying and we talk about how we miss our mothers (she lost her mom and my mom was never a mom), and in the lament and remembering the importance of grieving, she said, “You were never given what it takes to set the table, and so here you are trying to serve, but you’re still figuring out what linens to get and where to find them.”

Now Amy said a lot of wise and kind things to me today, some of which I’ll share in another post, but this about the table really struck me. For some of us, we were never taught or had it modeled to us how be mothers. It doesn’t come naturally and it’s a real fight sometimes. It isn’t that we don’t love our children and want to raise them well, it’s that we’re a bit behind trying to “find the linens.” But it’s this realization that helps us (me!) to do two things:

One, grieve the very real loss we’ve had. If you weren’t taught or shown how to be a mother in the day in and day out, that’s a loss. And if you don’t have a mother, or one who wasn’t involved much or had her own wounds to contend with, it’s a loss. And these losses aren’t insignificant (although surely the enemy will make you believe they are no big deal) and they matter to God. It’s healthy to grieve your loss, whatever it is.

Two, realize just how weak we are and much we need God.

I can’t mother without Him. I need His strength, His wisdom, His power, and most of us, His gentleness. He is so kind and such a gentle Father. My heart is constantly accusing me, but He is greater than my heart, and He is the One working all things out for good. Thank God. What a relief! I really can’t do it without Him, and that’s okay, because when I am weak He is strong. And His grace is sufficient for me.

If you feel like you keep dropping the ball as a mom, go before the Lord, hands up, “I’ve got nothing. Help me. Tell me the truth and help me receive it.” He knows you, He sees you, He loves you. We will never get it all together as moms, as women, as humans. And that’s okay, because we were never asked to get it together. We were only asked to believe and receive and follow by faith. He holds us up when we can’t do it, and He gives us what we need to keep on.

So I’m holding onto Him with all I’ve got, believing the truth that I am not condemned, that I am loved right now, and that He is doing the work in me that needs to be done for me to be holy. And my kids, who I adore so profoundly, I am also holding up to Him. Because I will fall short, but He never will.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

SM

P.S. If you need to just soak up some truth right now, close your eyes and listen to this.

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It’s a Serious (and Beautiful and Wild) Thing to Raise a Life

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Two hours of sweating and screaming and pushing and then . . .

She was born. My beautiful Ella was out of me and in the world, and all of life was about to change.

I couldn’t hold her though. I was shaking and exhausted and hot and cold. Jesse took her.

After a few minutes, the nurse placed her gently on my chest, and I held her close and cried. She was a wonder, and I was in awe.

Over the next few days I would stare at her and think, How could anyone not believe in God? Life is so incredible.

Each phase of her growth was lovely to me. Watching her discover something new, or say a word, or crawl, or giggle was all so fascinating to me. She was this little human who needed me, but who was going to grow into her own person with thoughts and opinions and a personality all her own. Who would she be? What was inside of her? What color had God put into her very soul? The fact that I had a front-row seat to this human’s life was wild to me.

Within the next few years, two more new lives came along, and with each one I was completely and utterly amazed. I was tired all the time, and being responsible for three little ones was tough, but there was still the wonder of it all. I was responsible for taking care of these precious ones, making sure to nurture them and teach them about the world and give them what they needed to be healthy and loved. It’s a serious thing to raise a life.

Welcome to the world, little humans; I am your guide.

I will show you how to navigate this great big, wondrous, sometimes-overwhelming world. I will do my best, but I’m still walking through it and figuring it out, as well. At least we’re in it together.

Parenting is a crazy thing, isn’t it? While trying not to lose our minds in the responsibility and sleeplessness of it all, we are also the ones who are teaching and training and helping our little people to understand and be somewhat healthy in this world, adding beauty to it, and making it a better place. We are not taught how to do this, at least most of us aren’t. I don’t remember taking any Raising Humans 101 classes, do you?

And even if there were, this raising of intricate souls who have their own bents and colors and gifts and sin is complicated. How do I do this parenting thing well, when most of the time I’m faltering at my own life?

But I’ll tell you, I long to give this parenting role my best—understanding that my best will often be a bit of a mess, but at least I will try. I will give myself to the work, to the season, and I will—I can only—surrender myself to the Lord and ask for His grace as I learn to parent in a good way.

Dear Lord, help us all.

There are days when I feel so out of control with parenting. It can be overwhelming thinking about my responsibility to raise my children so that they can navigate life and in turn be life-givers to the world. I not only want them to know about the God who made them, loves them, and has a purpose for their time on this earth; I want them to be productive human beings—giving, serving, loving, and communicating intelligently with others. I want to prepare them for surviving in a sin-infested world. I want them to be Kingdom-bearers and influencers for good.

The fact is, there is so much beauty and goodness in the world and in people, but there is also a tremendous amount of darkness. I want my children to be light; my hope is that they will know and love the Father and then know and love others. But even if they never make a personal commitment to Him, I still want to have the assurance that I invested my life in caring for and building good things into their hearts, minds, and souls so they can live well—so they can live fully. As much as I believe that they will never live full lives without them knowing the One who places the fullness of light and life in us, I want them to know I love them no matter what.

There is nothing they could do or say that would make me love them more or make me love them less. Could I be disappointed or even brokenhearted over choices they may make? Of course. I have no greater prayer than that my children walk in the truth. But they are my babies, and they always will be. It’s my job—my opportunity—to love them, honor them, and nurture these individuals whom God made them to be. It’s not about my agenda for their lives; it’s looking deep into them, discovering who they are and where they shine, and helping to pull their God-given gifts out and develop them.

What a joy it is to help a fellow human being, created in the image of God and loved by Him so dearly, uncover and help cultivate his or her potential.

You just read an excerpt from Longing for Paris: One Woman’s Search for Joy, Beauty, and Adventure…Right Where She Is (which is on sale now for only $2.99 on Amazon Kindle). It’s a book about the longings of our soul and how to see God in the midst of this hard, beautiful, complicated, crazy life. It’s also about delight. My stories and my own unfolding and discovering lead the way, but it’s also for you, the weary ones, the dreaming ones, the ones who want to make sense of the tension between longings and reality. And yes, there is some parenting in there as well, because it’s all a part of soul work.

I pray that the words in these pages will bring you relief where you are thirsty and a hand to hold and uplift you where you are weary.

We do not walk alone.

If you have some soul questions to work out, if you have some unmet dreams, if you want to delight in your life deep down, I’ll be a friend who walks alongside you.

With love, Sarah Mae

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