That Delicate Balance, Part One

The wind was gentle out on the patio,
where we waited for our lunch trays.
So she set the small container of salsa verde
on top of the napkin to keep it from blowing away.
Lunch arrived, she picked up the napkin
and the salsa went tumbling,
as if in slow motion,
spilling its brilliant green thickness 
over the concrete,
splashing up into the pocket of my purse,
dousing my cell phone with cilantro scented slime.
She couldn’t see it.
She can’t see very much at all.
And she didn’t remember that she’d put it there.
She doesn’t remember very much, either.
I made three or four trips back inside 
to the napkin dispenser, sopping up the mess,
silent, praying for grace.
“Is this what life is now?”
I prayed inside my tumbled spirit,
as green and splattered as the sauce before me.
Is this what it comes down to?
Cleaning up one mess after another,
praying for patience,
And those good things feeling just out of reach,
beyond my grasp, 
beyond me.
Because, of course, they are.
My shadow self wrestles hard within me,
struggling to teach me
how to live more fully into these moments.
And what I’m learning as I wrestle is this:
the shadow is part of me,
a friend, not an enemy.
A place for learning and stretching,
for telling the truth
and not liking it very much.
For acknowledging that this is hard.
This is really hard.
It’s hard for her.
It’s hard for me.
It is hard.

And I am impatient.
I do wish that she didn’t have to go through this,
and that I didn’t have to go through it, either.
I do not think completely selfless thoughts, you see.
I wish sometimes it were over.
Yes, I even wish that.

But here is the Truth that is slowly
sinking in and healing the holes in me.
Here is the wonder of redemption:
God loves all of who I am,
ugly thoughts, self-pity, impatience,
frustration – all of it.
God loves me before those parts are redeemed,
while they are in process,
and through the refining fire of life circumstances
that are difficult, painful and not very pretty. 

That’s a hard concept for me to grasp,
one that I’ve pushed back against
time and time again.
Pushing back in my usual way –
with lots of private name-calling,

But today, as I look back at the last three days
with my mom – three days filled with reminders
of how much is lost, how frail she is, 
how brave and terrified she is – 
when I look back,
I see mercy in the moments.
I see glimpses of glory.
I see fleeting images of the fullness, the richness of life
the wonder and the sweetness
the sorrow and the harshness.

It’s all a part of the mix, you see,
and somehow, we’re asked to live in the balance,
to stay in the center,
to focus on the One who holds it all.
The One who weeps with us when we weep,
who laughs with us when we rejoice,
who reminds us by the very life
He lived among us
that all of it is grace.
All of it.

And so,
the mess is cleared.
The fish tacos are delicious.
And my mom smiles at me across the table.
She is beautiful.
And so am I.
By the grace of God,
because of Jesus,
by the winsome will of the Holy Spirit –
so am I.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… God demonstrates his own love for us in this: 
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 
Romans 5:6 & 8, TNIV
 Joining with several friends tonight after a rough and tumble, mixed emotion kind of journey the last few days. I will write Part 2 and post it with the same friends a bit later, 
if their links are still open:
Michelle at Graceful
Jennifer F. and the Sisterhood and Finding Heaven
Jennifer Lee and the GodBumps folks at Getting Down with Jesus
Emily at Imperfect Prose


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  1. Diana, this is so beautiful. And hard. And painful. And real.

    God bless you, and your mom. 

  2. All true. Everything you wrote here. 
    There is something in coming to peace with even the rough-and-tumble, mixed-emotion days and the raw prayers wrestled with at the end of them…..even in the midst of them, even in the cleaning up of the salsa.  There are just days we don’t know how to pray and saying so to God is a good thing. He is faithful to respond, I find.

    Courageous writing. Hard. Honest.

  3. My goodness, you are wise. And I so appreciate your candor. As painful as it is, your sharing is a gift, Diana. 

    This line had me catching emotion in my throat: “God loves me BEFORE those parts are redeemed.” Every human being on the planet needs to read that one sentence. Gorgeous truth. 

  4. pastordt says

    Thank you, Sheila. This situation – and so many others in this life – are all of that, and more.

  5. pastordt says

    I know you know this, Marilyn. Exactly this. And yes, God is faithful to respond – at the lowest, hardest point.

  6. pastordt says

    Thanks so much, Jennifer, for your encouragement. But I am far from wise – I’ve lived a long time and tried to learn from each experience…that’s it. And I keep trying to say that line in as many different ways as I can, in as many different places as I can because I think it’s one of the hardest ones for us to deeply believe and live by.

  7. I wish you could have been at our poetry group yesterday. One of my friends is going through this, and she’s writing the most amazing poems about her 90-year-old mom, slipping further and further away each day. You are not alone!

  8. I want to live to that line, not by it. (And I don’t know exactly what that means, but I feel led to write it.) 

    Diana, on you and wisdom: a) you’ve recognized that you’ve been having experiences as you’ve lived your life, rather than autopiloting through
    b) you’ve recognized that one can learn through living, and tried to do so.Is that not the essence of what makes for wisdom? 

  9. lindalouise says

    We are in this same season of life Diana. My Mom is doing well mentally, but she has lost so much physically and longs for the days when she could do all the things she loves. She even sometimes wonders aloud why she is still here. It is not an easy time, but there is still laughter and joy and precious times of sharing stories.
    I will be praying for you and your dear Mom. Thank you for the treasured reminder that He loves us as we are and is working to make us so much more.

  10. pastordt says

    It’s a hard and strangely wonderful season, isn’t it, Linda? Several times this weekend, my mom said to me, “I don’t think I’m going to live much longer.” I have no idea what that means, but somehow I wonder if she isn’t sensing something. And she also said that she is no longer afraid of dying – which was a relief to me.

  11. Dtrautwein says

     Wow. A poetry group. Sounds amazing to me – maybe I’d actually learn something about writing poetry if I found a group. :>)

    And I know that I’m not alone – the number of children caring for dementing parents in on a sharp line heading up. Which makes me worry for and wonder about my own children – an aspect of this whole thing that I have yet to write about.

  12. Dtrautwein says

     that’s an interesting distinction, Sheila. I’ll be thinkin’ on that one for a while.  And wisdom? Refusing autopilot…sorta always thought that was more about stubbornness – not wisdom. :>)

  13. You say stubborn, I say determined. Either way, it leads to wisdom 🙂

  14. pastordt says

    Thanks for that graceful interpretation of a primary character flaw, friend!

  15. soulstops says

    oh, so much truth, beauty, and grace in your words…yes, He does love our shadow side (and we ALL have one), and in His love, He redeems it all…I wish I could reach out and give you a hug … you are beautiful and courageous, Diana…praying God will give you both grace.

  16. pastordt says

    Oh, thank you, Dolly. I can feel the hug, all the way over here on the west coast.

  17. soulstops says

    hey, I’m on the west coast 🙂

  18. pastordt says

    Oops! Glad to know that – you and Sheila make exactly 2 then – and Carol Garvin who is in Canada. Oh, and Darlene, too. And Sarah B shows up here once in a while (she’s in Canada, too). Other than that, I think everyone else who comments regularly lives in the midwest or east or south. Sorry I got you wrong geographically. :>)

  19. Where is Darlene? 

  20. pastordt says

    Somewhere in WA state.

  21. soulstops says

    no apology needed…I’ve never mentioned it before…wishing you a restful night…got to run, the dog wants something 🙂

  22. Jumping over from Getting Down with Jesus and the link-up.  Finding your blog is a breath of fresh air, because I’m beyond middle age and I’ve traveled your journey of caring for your mom and watching things fail.  And I too am writing to write down my life story.  Let’s enjoy the journey together.  I’ll be following you from now on.  

  23. pastordt says

    Delighted to have you along for the ride, Sherrey! Welcome to this post-50, trying-to-end-well, searching-for-joy community. (although I have many friends here are are WAY younger than 50 – they just have grown-up hearts and minds :>)

  24. soulstops says

    oh, and I am sending you another hug 🙂 Have a blessed Thursday 🙂

  25. pastordt says

    Received with gratitude! Blessings right back to you, too.

  26. Oh friend. I’ve had a week. And today was especially soul-tumbly. And my patience has been so thin and I feel swallowed up in frustration And so I come to this–and I’m weeping, weeping. For the hardness of it all. And for His grace. And how He loves us ugly thoughts and all. And for the beauty of her and the beauty of you and the wonder of it all. My heart rejoices and breaks at the same time. 

  27. How I wish I could have read this several years ago. You and your mom have my prayers.

  28. pastordt says

    Thank you, Susan. It’s tough to hang onto the truth of grace sometimes, especially when we feel crappy about ourselves!

  29. Handsfull says

    Ohhhhhhhh… It’s kind of a relief to hear you struggling, while caring for your mother, with the same thoughts and feelings as I struggle with, while caring for my young children!  maybe this means that it’s HARD being a carer, and that these are normal feelings, not just that I’m a horrible person.  Lol!
    I would so love to talk with you – I’ve been seeing your comments pop up on several blogs I read, and … I don’t know what else to say without sounding like a stalker!
    I guess what I mean is that if you ever had 5 spare minutes, I would love to exchange emails with you… and time’s up – my 2yr old needs attention 🙂

  30. I can’t find your name anywhere, but sure, I’m up for email correspondence. dtrautwein at gmail dot com. And  yes, it is a hard thing being a caregiver. And actually much harder for a toddler in your own home. My mom lives 135 miles away and I spend a day or two with her about every 3 weeks. That’s a lot different than day in and day out! So hang in there, it will get…shall we say…different, even if not always easier.

  31. Glenda Childers says

     You already write poetry, my dear.

  32. Glenda Childers says

    How did I miss this beautiful post. I am sorry that you are going through this difficult and painful time with your mom. Sending love and prayers.

  33. pastordt says

    I don’t know how you missed it, Glenda – but I’m glad you found it. Thanks for your always encouraging words!

  34. This post is a year old, but am so glad you still have it here. Finding peace in the midst of all the emotions in watching and caring for a loved one is so precious. I have replayed the year my husband deployed and I and my children became the sole companions and caregiver for my father-in-law. What I would have done differently, the same and the small blessings unrealized. He passed away two years ago and life has been running in fast forward ever since. I have had the opportunity to share small moments of that year with my husband of his Dad, which I can see in my heart have been gentle hugs from God.

    • Thanks for reading backwards, Mandy. I did two connected posts on this topic last year and they’re still among my favorites. I cannot imagine caring for a dying FIL without my husband there. Kudos to you for offering him tender care during those last months.