What She Needs, Is What I’ll Miss

IMG_3229 From the moment I came to my in-law’s house that weekend, I’d been avoiding her room. Aunt Lori warned me that she’d been packing all week. It made sense, we were getting down to the wire. Now I stood on the threshold looking in. It was everything I expected to see, but that didn’t make the sight more palatable. The pictures were down off the walls. The bible verses tacked to her mirror were removed. All that remained of her worldly possessions were piled neatly on the floor of her room. She looked up and smiled at me, blinking her glittering blue eyes.

“Where should I sit?” I asked.

“I’ll make a place for you here.” She cleared off her desk and pulled up the chair. She pointed at a pile of clothes. “This is it. I’ve always wanted to be a minimalist.”

I chuckled and said, “You know when you get there you’re not going to come back.” I was only half joking. The expression that crossed her face made me think she half hoped I was right.

The Philippines. It already looks far on a map, long before you calculate miles or flight times or time changes. Two years. It already sounds long before you break it down to months or weeks or days. But it’s hard to hold onto my selfish desire to keep her here when she’s glowing like this.

“Rachel it’s been crazy lately,” she said. “I mean through this whole thing, God has just been changing me. Like, all these little things in my life. I feel God putting his finger on everything. ‘You need to give this to me’ and ‘You need to give this to me’. Even my desire to become a missionary. He said to me, ‘What if I don’t want you to be a missionary? What if I want you to stay in New Jersey forever?’ I’m like, ‘God, why can’t you just let me be a missionary?’ But he wanted me to give him everything, even my desire to be a missionary. And when I did, he gave it back to me. Now there’s no fear. I’m sad, I mean, I know I’ll miss a lot, like Ben and Chelsea’s baby, but if this becomes permanent there will be a lot more of that.”

I’m listening with all of me, while still acutely aware of how easily I could burst into tears and how much I wish I could stealthily record our conversation. I want to be able to remember what she said word for word. I want to be able to absorb it into me, along with her confidence in Christ’s plans and ways, the lessons she’s learned and learning, and her abiding peace.

I eyed the clothes she laid aside for her journey ahead. For some in this world it would still be a lot, but for the average American in our area, not so much. But she won’t need a lot of things where she is going. What she will need is the bit of her that I will miss the most. The part I most hate to lose.

The beauty of her gracious heart. The gentleness of her christlike spirit. Her compassion. Her wisdom. Her strength. Her passionate desire to answer God’s call. That is what drew her across the ocean, with a suitcase full of love for the newborn babies she will deliver. That is what she will bring to the poor and needy mothers at the clinic God has sent her to.

Those are the things that make her beautiful, and that is what I will miss the most.IMG_0918

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When Family Traditions Go Awry

“Oh and I bought canned whipped cream,” my mother-in-law said. “So if you want some on your pie it’s in the kitchen.”

Several happy chirps rang out from the inhabitants of the table. I kept my peace. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and that nasty spray can whipped cream is more sugar than dairy. It actually surprised me that it was even there. My in-laws are healthy eaters. You know the type; organic vegetables, unpasteurized milk, and cereal that tastes like cardboard. When I first came around their family, holding hands with their tall curly haired brunette boy, I was about thirty pounds heavier than I am now. I felt like Bertha Big Butt among the clan of Healthy Stick People. Thankfully they loved me anyway.

Back to present. Once I got over the initial shock of hearing this garbage food item was in the household, someone said, “Can we spray it into our mouths like we used to do at Nani’s?”

Really? I thought. No. No they won’t.

“Sure,” my father-in-law said. “We need to do the two little ones first because they never got to.”

I tugged my husband’s sleeve. “Timmy, is this usual? Like some Thanksgiving tradition that I knew nothing about?”

Tim shrugged. “We used to do it at Nani’s.” Okay love… I’d heard that part.

The can emerged from the kitchen. Apparently Dad was the one to administer, Father’s privilege I guess. I watched them squirt the squishy sugary sticky slop between the open lips of everyone around the table: the two little ones (four and eight), my sister-in-law, Jessica, my brother-in-law, Jon, and then my husband. I knew Mom wasn’t going to partake and Dad held the can so he didn’t have to worry…

“Do you want some Rachel?” Jon asked.

I considered. I knew I didn’t care for the stuff, (I’d had it before) but it’s good to push your boundaries and try things when you have the opportunity, especially when they are unlikely to cause real harm. Besides, what if I die tomorrow. I could see myself lying in my hospital bed, looking into my husband’s tear filled eyes and murmuring in a weak hushed voice, “Now I’ll never know what it is like to have whipped cream sprayed into my mouth.” The heart monitor flatlines. My husband presses his wet eyes to my hand.

“Oh why not,” I said. “You only live once.”

If you can’t understand what I’m saying with my mouth full of whipped cream, I asked, “What do I do now?”

It should have stopped there. We had all been apportioned our share of gross chemical dairy product, but my sister-in-law really wanted to administer some of the delicious whipped treat herself. My brother-in-law, Jon, volunteered. He asked the video to be taken in slow motion. What followed was completely unplanned, impromptu, and all around unscripted. Here it is below. It was well worth the cleanup. 🙂

(and if you listen very closely, you can hear Pinkie, my mother-in-law’s pet stegosaurus, humming Thanksgiving carols in the background)