From Tracie

Monday, September 01, 2014

Last Words

We are home from Arizona. It was a hard trip, not at all like the trips we usually make. I did get to do the most important thing though, and that is spend time with grandma each day. There were big ups and downs, even in the short time we were there.

It seemed like every piece of good news was tempered by another setback. Even on the days when she was doing well, I felt the pressure of knowing this would probably be our last visit together, because it will be a long time before we are able to make another trip out there.


On that one bad day, when she held me close to her like she never wanted to let go, I knew exactly how she felt about me, and I know she understood my feelings as well. I told her there was still one more day left, and I would be back to see her. "One more visit, Grandma. I love you. I'll be back tomorrow." She nodded, and closed her eyes.

The next day, the night before we left, she was awake and much more like her usual self. As she gave me clothing advice, she told me I was beautiful. She told me she was proud of me. She told me she loved me. I held her hand, feeling the strength in her grasp, and told her how much I loved her. I told her how thankful I was to have her in my life. I thanked her for all the prayers and love she has given me. I leaned close, to hear her whispered words of love.

With Grandma In The Hospital

There was a lot of talk about last words, of saying everything that you want to say. Do you realize how impossible it is to sum up a whole life in a few sentences? Do perfect words even exist? But I realized something. We didn't need to share special last words, not the kind of last words so often spoken.

I don't have a score to settle with her. I don't need to offer or ask for forgiveness. I don't need last minute advice, because she has always poured out her advice on me - the most important of which is to follow God. I am not afraid for her soul, that was settled long ago, and I know Jesus is waiting to welcome her home when the time comes. I never had to wonder where I stood with my grandma. There has only ever been love between us.

I'm thankful for that today. I'm so thankful that we spoke the most important words every time we talked, in every card we exchanged, in every thought we had of each other. Because our last words are just an extension of the words we always shared.

In this, there is peace.

I love you, Grandma. I always will.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dark Hope Book Review


I've been reading a lot of YA books the last couple of years. Partly because I was looking for new books for Katarina to read, but also because I enjoy them. I like to vary my reading and try new things. I'll give almost everything a chance, and I've found a lot of really great YA books.

Last week, I read Dark Hope by Monica McGurk. I have a lot of thoughts about this book. My biggest impression of Dark Hope was that it suffered from not knowing exactly what kind of book it wanted to be.

Dark Hope Book Cover

Dark Hope begins with a really mysterious and interesting story, but by chapter four, I started to sense Twilight lurking in the dark corners of the story. From interviews and other reading about the author, I learned that she got her start in fiction by writing Twilight fanfic. It showed, and the feeling of Twilight was heavy throughout the rest of Dark Hope in the relationship between Hope and Michael. I don't want to mislead you. It isn't a Twilight copy, we don't have a love triangle in this first book, and she is definitely giving us an original story. But even without knowing about McGurk's Twilight past, I could feel it.

I have more to say about that, but first, let me tell you about the storyline I loved in Dark Hope. At the beginning of the story we meet a very young Hope in a hotel room where she has been found by police after being abducted. We fast forward to teenage Hope who has decided to leave her super religious father to move back to Atlanta and live with her mother. She makes a friend named Tabitha, and they start to work on a project for school about human trafficking. Hope and Tabitha go to a shelter and meet a trafficking victim, Maria, with whom Hope forms a strong connection. This relationship with Maria is a real driving force for some of the important decisions Hope makes throughout the book. The human trafficking story is where this book shines.

As you probably guessed by the name of the series, there are angels. I was not a fan of the angels as portrayed by McGurk. I didn't expect a strictly Biblical view of angles, but I was disappointed by how far away the story strayed. There was a lot of fighting amongst the angels and supposedly they are very caught up in a bureaucracy-filled court system. I think this was supposed to make them feel more human and accessible, but it fell flat for me. I also didn't like one of the angels directing Hope to lie about his presence. But the biggest issues I had with the angels was the romantic relationship that develops between Hope and the archangel Michael.

I am not okay with the relationship between this angel, who is many thousands of years old, and a teenager. No matter how carefully McGurk tried to portray Michael as being only a teen himself in body chemistry and feelings when he takes on the form of a human teen, he is still a vastly older being, and the manipulation and control he exerts over Hope would be concerning in any relationship.

We are told that Michael is out of God's will by being with Hope instead of doing other tasks, so he is in pain every second of the day. This pain is a punishment that should drive him back to his angelic duties. This pain is also the excuse given when he gets angry at Hope. Now, I am not saying that he physically abuses her (although she is physically hurt very badly by a decision he makes), but I am saying that it made me a little sick to read her explanations for the anger he directs towards her as being due to the pain he is in, because he is choosing to protect Hope instead of doing his angel job. Then, in this same conversation, she is instructed by another character to be careful not to anger Michael. It felt too much like the beginning of an "it's my fault he hurts me" victim narrative for my comfort.

I can not say enough how inappropriate this relationship is, and it feels even more inappropriate in a book that also seeks to speak out against sex trafficking.

I think there are some interesting pieces in Dark Hope. If the author had omitted the romantic relationship between Hope and Michael, instead making them friends and partners in dealing with the human trafficking storyline (and even including the mysterious prophecy aspect that is going to be more fully unveiled later in the trilogy), it would have been a very interesting read, and I think the book would have deserved a much higher rating.

I feel like McGurk is truly passionate about the issue of human trafficking. She has given a percentage of proceeds from her book to help fight trafficking, and is on the advisory board of an anti-trafficking organization. I love that she set some of the story in Atlanta, which is one of the largest hubs for human trafficking in America. There was obviously real research and knowledge behind some of her story decisions.

Here's the thing about human trafficking: this is a cause that is also very close to my heart, because of the work I do with survivors of sexual abuse and rape, as well as having personal friends who are survivors of sex trafficking. I'm going to be a harsher judge when someone portrays trafficking in a book or movie. It was hard for me to fully connect with the trafficking story, because even as Michael is helping Hope to find Maria, he is also at the center of this very unhealthy relationship that makes it hard for me to view him as a good guy.

Monica McGurk has promise as a writer; I don't want to dismiss her or her book. There were strong moments in Dark Hope that had the potential to be something special. But McGurk is going to have to break out from under Stephanie Meyer's shadow to realize her full potential. I know she is already committed to finishing out this series as a trilogy, but once it is complete, I hope she will try something new. That is a book I really would like to read.

You can find Monica on twitter, facebook, and pinterest, where she shares a lot of great background details on her writing (I love it when authors do that), and information related to fighting trafficking and promoting women.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I Forgot How To Pray

Exciting Grandma Update 8-22: The surgeon came in last night and said she does NOT need surgery. This is a HUGE answer to prayer, and means she can work on gaining strength and moving from the ICU into a regular room. Earlier this week we were facing the task of making plans with Hospice, and now the situation has completely changed. Praise the Lord. Thank you for all your prayers and support these last weeks. I know it made a difference.

She was able to have some broth last night. Today they are going to let her have a few bites of ice cream. It is clear by the level of excitement the ice cream announcement caused that I come from my mother's side of the family!

Thank you so much for all the supportive comments, messages, and emails I've been getting over the last few days. It has made such a difference for me, and really reminded me how special this blogging community is, and how online friendships are real friendships. 

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Little snippets seem to be all I'm good for at this point.

I get a strong four sentences of prayer in, but I feel disconnected.

My mind races.

I laugh hysterically at things that aren't that funny. I cry deeply at things that aren't that sad. I'm more snappy and also more cuddly. I want to be held, but I don't want to be touched. I'm emotionally eating everything, but it all tastes like copper and feels like lead in my stomach.

My emotions are less of roller coaster, and more of a runaway train - going faster, faster, faster, no stopping in sight.

I get a focused three sentences of prayer in, but then my mind is filled with bits of songs that won't shut off and anxieties that won't quit.

I wonder if I'm like her, my grandma. I wonder if I'm like anyone in my family.

I feel like I know them, and yet, I feel like they are all strangers who are very far away. I am obsessed with family these days. Angry and sad and lonely and hurt.

I get a semi-focused two sentences of prayer in while I write a message, updating and asking someone else to pray.

I want to scream at the doctors, "We will be there tomorrow, don't do anything yet!" and "We will be there tomorrow, why haven't you done anything?"

What are we walking into? And, maybe worse, what will we walk away from next week? Six days isn't enough time. But it may be too much time.

What is time? Why am I wasting it asking these stupid questions?

I get one word in. "Please." Maybe it is enough. It doesn't feel like it is.

I don't know how to be a mother and to grieve. I'm not so good at this.

And maybe grieving won't be called for. Maybe we will rejoice. Maybe I can shut down the part of my brain that is running scenarios and thinking about all the years I've missed.

I ask for healing. I ask for strength - for her, for me, for all of us. I ask for help to stand in front of her, tear-less, and support any decision she makes. I ask where the line is, and how to know if I've crossed it. 

Maybe prayer is asking, and maybe it is crying, and maybe it is just a little bit writing this blog post. Because I don't know if I can remember how to do it anymore. I just know that God is good. And Jesus intercedes. And I believe that far away in a hospital room I won't reach until tomorrow, the Holy Spirit sits and holds my Grandma in His arms. Because everything else is too hard, and I've run out of any other answers.

Maybe, that is exactly how it is supposed to be. And if it isn't, maybe there is grace.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Today I'm Thankful

My grandma is back in the hospital. This time in the ICU. She is dealing with the same breathing/lung and heart issues as before with some serious added complications. There has been talk of surgery and other options, none of which look really great. Katarina and I are flying out there to see her on Thursday. I've been so blessed by the prayers and love that have sustained me as I count down the days until we can get there to see her, and I'm thankful for the amazing people who make up my world.

Lizzi mentioned in her Ten Things Of Thankful post that this week we really need thankfuls. She is so very right. So I'm going to dig deep, and share some of the things for which I am thankful today.

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I shared this on facebook yesterday:
"Taking a personality test. One of the questions is, "You find it difficult to speak loudly - yes or no?" ....and then we all laughed and laughed. 
But I laughed the loudest. Because, obviously."

I'm thankful for that laughter, because laughs have been few and far between this week. But I'm also thankful for one of the responses (which brought back a special memory and also made me laugh):
"Remember when we had a slumber party at my house and we were so loud that my parents set up the camper?! Hahaha"
And in case you are wondering, like Thomas was, if this is a true story? It is. It SO is. I could tell you that our awesomeness was too much to contain in a small bedroom. But, honestly, we were just really, really loud, and I, the loudest of all.

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Thomas stopped at a garage sale while he was at work yesterday, and came home with a Harry Potter shirt. It is actually a Quidditch shirt for the Gryffindor seeker. I'm thankful for a husband who notices little things that will make me happy, and brings them to me.

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I'm thankful for my job with SITS and Sway, where I work with amazing people, and actually look forward to starting work every morning.

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Blue Sky Hope

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On Friday, my friend Sheena shared some great tweets, including some gratefulness statements that really grabbed my heart. Here is one of my favorites:
I'm thankful for wisdom. I'm thankful for the ability to do better. I'm thankful for Sheena reminding me of both of these things on a day I really needed to remember them.

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I'm thankful Enter The Worship Circle is on Spotify.

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I'm thankful Lizzi tags me on twitter each week with a reminder to share my thankful moments. Because I need it. Especially on weeks like this, when it is easy to be wrapped up in fear, anxiety, frustration, hard feelings, and something far too close to grief. All those feelings are real, and many of them are valid, but the thankfuls are real, too.

Right now, for at least as long as it took me to type these, I'm going to focus on the thankful things. My heart needs it. If you have had a hard week, I'm pretty sure your heart might need it, too.

Ten Things of Thankful

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cut The Strings - Change Is Coming

As change happens, strings are cut.

Some of them are as small as dental floss.

Some as thick and large as the ropes that hold the sails of a ship in place.

One by one.

Snip.

Snip.

Snip.

Each change is a cut string.

And you feel yourself move, because those were your strings.

Some of them were cut at your own hands, but most of them are cut when you least expected it, by forces seen and unseen. You try to ignore each snip beyond your control, and do this life thing.

But the tether is gone.

You are lifted off the ground.

Flying off to freedom. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, or a bird finally leaving the nest, or Iron Man putting on a new suit. Purposeful. Making decisions. Reaching goals.

blue balloon floating towards the sun

The tether is gone, and you are lifted off the ground.

Floating away uncontrollably. Like a half-inflated balloon, aiming towards heaven, but getting tangled in the power lines. Like a leaf that thinks it will fly, but finds this short flight is really only a fall. Like a plastic bag on the highway. Floating. Almost flying. Getting hit by car after car. Tearing apart. Never quite able to make it to the other side of the road.

The fear firmly in place, you try to tie those ropes and strings back together.

Frantic.

Fingers slipping.

Is a chance at flying enough to risk a fall?

Is there even a choice?

Those strings have been cut.

They will never be strong again, tethering you to what you know.

Change is here.

fallen yellow leaf with shadows and light

Brace yourself for the flight.

Or the fall.