It's not what I expected

I figured out today,  that this is what I want on my headstone when I'm dead...

Life...It's not what I expected.

So, I think I'm set.  Chocolate Chip cookies for the luncheon meal- just cookies, and that on my headstone.  They can't be crummy, hard, crunchy cookies but thick, chewy, chocolately cookies. 

Okay...

I don't know why I think about these things but I do.  Anyways...

Two weeks ago, I was asked to write a brief description of my life, the history of our little family.  It was read to an LDS Youth Group in Utah, at a Pioneer Trek.  I am going to repost what I wrote, since typing is still really hard and time consuming.  It's kind of long-ish.  It was read at the top of the Women's Pull.  The women's pull is when all the young women have to push their handcarts up a steep hill, alone, while the young men stand at the rocky top and watch quietly without any kind of encouragement or help.  It helps teach the youth about faith, patience, trust, but it is also reminiscent of life.  Sometimes, we have to muddle through alone, our own Gethsemane where we come to know our Savior and Father in Heaven. 

"Expectation is a word itself that holds so much promise, hope, depth and breadth. It covers a lot of ground. It's a word that can fill the universe or just a small, insignificant moment in your little day.   A lot can happen with an expectation. 

It can mean something as simple as expecting dinner to be served at generally the same time every day, snow in the month of January, bed at 11 and awake with the rising sun. You come to expect that each day will most likely resemble the day before, and next week won't deviate much from the previous week or the week before that, or even the week you had last month. 

Most expectations steady us, keep the keel of life even; life is mostly predictable.

We invest a lot of ourselves into expectations, whether it be the unspoken; yet understood, or the ones more boldly accepted on the play grounds of youth.  We are a culture raised on fairy tales and fables.   From our earliest beginnings we are taught the happily ever after story.   We come to expect that life is fair in the end, the underdog wins, good prevails, and prince charming is just a kiss away.

I expected all this and more.  I expected to breeze through adolescents; making my parents proud.  I expected to graduate university with highest honors and set out on a career path of staggering success, marry a hardworking, young man who adored me more each passing day.  My little girls would dance their way into the hearts of everyone, pink ribbons and pig tails trailing behind.  My boys would become boy scouts, play sports, and deliver an unforgettable valedictorian message.  I expected I would do it all, experience it all…be it all. 

Well, I’m not young and na├»ve today.  Life has happened…is happening and it’s not exactly what I had come to expect and none of my experiences were first laid out in the pages of bedtime stories.

I didn’t exactly breeze through adolescents.  I got to experience the fine art of being bullied and shamed by mighty girls who had less self-esteem than me.  I got to know what it feels like to be used and used up.  I realized that it’s each man or young woman, for herself.  At the ripe old age of 17, I was halted by grief at the passing of my one and only friend, to the horrifying disease of Cystic Fibrosis.

Young Adult life brought only a meager degree, passing grades in a profession with less than impressive success yet fed my creative mind.  I married a young man; I doted on him, and cared for him and we were blessed with three children, a girl and two boys.

My daughter hated pink and pig tails not to mention she would rather wear blue jeans than tutus.  She loved science and T-ball but not enough to do either for very long.  My sons fidgeted in right field, sat down and day dreamed as short stop.  “If you can’t get an ‘A’ a ‘C’ will work too.” Became our daily mantra.  From there it was nothing more than “Just show up.”

There was a moment of monumental realization as I rode in the back of a Life Flight jet to a distant Children’s Hospital when I realized…This is not at all what I had expected life would be.  In that moment of disproportionate feelings, you are big and awkward, stark and naked in the middle of your life, embarrassed that you somehow missed the mark of what was expected of you.  What you expected of yourself; of life.

My three children haven’t had the same opportunities that come to most children.  They were born with a rare, terminal genetic disease that is aging their body at an alarming rate.  Their hearts have begun to fail, the marrow doesn’t produce enough blood cells and every week, someone is getting a test, a treatment, another hopeful lease on life.   They look normal, beautiful, handsome and all that stuff, but inside, they are dying.  We later came to learn that the odds of being born with this disease is 1 in one million.  Having a chronic, debilitating disease is hard and affects every area of life.  School was interrupted with months of chemotherapy.  Jobs were lost while hearts were being repaired.  Hospital stays commandeered the holidays; Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter, Birthdays, even Christmas took a hit.  All the expected milestones of life were missed by a mark.  Nothing can be called normal and we spend each day, adjusting our sails and readjusting, in hopes of suffering these trials well; being wholly joyous. 

There is a moment when you stop and stare into your life and realize that it was never meant to happen in a hospital room or doctor’s office 5 out of 7 days in a week or unfold in a condo as a single mom for the past decade or so.   My dreams didn’t consist of holding their hands and whispering “I love you” as they were wheeled away, down the sterile corridor for the 20th bone marrow biopsy.  I didn’t think I would be cobbling together a living on odd jobs and a prayer.  I never planned to hold on to my children for dear life; to suck out as much living and loving as I could from every possible, exhausted moment.

I remembered some time ago, sitting in a hospital room, with my son who had been life flighted the night before, a night when I thought I had reached the end of what I could possibly handle.  I heard a talk from Sister Sheri Dew.  She spoke of the faithful men and women who stood at the end of Parley Street in the City of Joseph, one morning as they prepared to evacuate the city.  The wagons and handcarts were poised in a sturdy line with faith, hope, and courage in tow.  Sister Dew asked herself, as she stood one day at the end of Parley Street, if she would have been like those faithful saints.  Would she have been able to load her wagon and “Follow their Faith into the Wilderness.”  Could she be the woman God needed her to be?

On that very lonely night, after reading her talk, I stood at the end of my own Parley Street and asked myself those very same questions…Will I be a faithful daughter of God and load this wagon?  Will I be the woman God wants me to be…needs me to be…thinks that I am?  Will I be a keeper of the faith for my children as we navigate this chronic world of illness together?

These are the very moments that have become my greatest expectations in life.  I expect that life is hard but life is holy.  I expect that life will be perfectly imperfect.  I expect that the greatest lessons can only be learned in the most harrowing of struggles.  God is preparing us for great, eternal things.  I expect that I will be heartbroken but those pieces will hold more love than I could ever imagine.  I expect that I will feel burdened and broken and grief will pass through me and I through it, but the light will come and set a joy upon me that can never be measured with the yardstick of the world.  Every day, I feel the weight of my world and every day, I witness miracles, a simple sacredness that can be found in no other place, but suffering. 

We push, and we pull our handcart of trials and there are prayers on one side and Heaven on the other and somehow, as we wrestle along, we stumble upon joy.  Wholly, joyous moments that come along so completely unexpectedly and I feel overwhelming peace and love for the trials that God has entrusted to me…to us.  I know without doubt that this Gospel is truth.  I know that God is in the very smallest details of our life and that Christ is not far off, watching and waiting and swooping in with the most beautiful balm of healing and help when we can go no farther. 

I know that where ever I am in the struggles of life, it is where I am expected to be by a loving God who trusts me to learn these great lessons and in the quiet night, I can hear Heaven whisper- All is Well.  And it is… "

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