Monday, August 1, 2011

What Remains

I sit in a comfy blue beach chair on ‘our’ island off the coast of South Carolina. The one where we’ve spent family vacations since our children were small. Where baby Grace learned to swim.

It’s a place as thick with memories as the Charleston summer air is thick with sticky humidity.

Innocent childhood times. Crazy college ones. Adventures of every kind: some fortunate; some… not so much. A place of refuge at times of loss or stress. Every year a different experience, set within the frame of comforting familiarity.

It’s one of our favorite feel-good, chill-out places.

Plane tickets had been bought and the house deposit made long before we knew we’d be up against the clock with a house closing. Things are still a mess at home, but we loaded up the cars like the Clampetts and fled to the coast for a time-out. Chaos will just have to wait.

The sun glimmers dimly behind a cloud layer, sneaking out every now and then to wink. There’s a brisk breeze stirring up sand and keeping things cool. In front of me, my grandson dances ecstatically in the waves. You can actually swim in East-Coast oceans!

Loved ones surround me. We are just better together. I don’t worry so much when I can gather up all my chicks. Laughter and chatter fill the empty places.

For the first time in weeks, I feel a sense of peace.






It’s the first time we’ve all been back on the island since Katherine’s AVM rupture.

The first time since everything changed forever.

Slowly, carefully, Katherine made her way through the treacherous sand: cane in one hand, Jay’s arm in the other. Starting to sit down in the rented beach chair, she took a little tumble in the sand. “I’m okay,” she said, as usual.

A huge straw hat on her head, she sat under the umbrella to keep the sun away from her many scars. She watched her son play in the sand and the waves with everyone else.

And sat.

The joy of being together was marred by my thoughts of the then and now.

Katherine was always the first one to sign up for a field trip. She was game for anything.

“Anybody wanna go on a walk with me?”

“I will!”

“Who wants to go on a bike ride?”

“I do!”

“Swimming laps?”


“Shopping in Charleston?”

“Whatev.” (i.e. If I must.)

In between my turns playing in the ocean with James, I watched my daughter just sitting there. I wondered if she felt sad.

“Want me to get you a book?” I asked.

“Mom, you know I still can’t see well enough to read a book. I’m fine.”

But I wasn’t.

After Katherine and most of the group went back up to the house for lunch, I sat there and stewed for a while. “Lord, so much has been taken away from her,” I grieved. “It’s not fair. I still can’t believe You allowed this to happen.”

Deep sigh.

I picked up the weird little book I’ve been trying to read off-and-on for a while now. The card I was using as a bookmark fell out into my lap. It was a blue pew card with notes from a sermon scribbled all over it… from who knows when.

Glancing at it, I deciphered my hen-scratch handwriting:

It’s what’s taken away that reveals what we really are.”

A chill… in spite of the humid heat. He still speaks.

I remembered an illustration from the sermon. It reminded me of a scene from the movie Camille Claudel. The aspiring young French sculptor was given a rough piece of marble from the workshop of the legendary Auguste Rodin. The male workers smirked, certain that the young student’s efforts with the marble would be disastrous.

She returned the rough chunk of raw material to Rodin’s studio covered with a cloth. When one of the craftsmen removed the cover, the ugly slab had been transformed into an exquisitely crafted human foot.

“How did she know there was a foot in there?” a bemused janitor asked.

It’s what’s chiseled away that reveals the core.

Musing on these thoughts, I picked up where I’d left off in my strange little book. It was Godric, a work of historical fiction by Frederick Buechner.

Godric is an 11th Century monastic hermit. An unlikely saint.

A scribe has been sent to Godric’s cave by the River Wear to transcribe his life story as an example for generations to come. But Godric’s story reveals far more sinner than saint. His is a rocky, winding path to faith.

Towards the end of his life and his wild tale, the ancient Godric describes how he immerses himself in the River Wear every day, winter or summer:

““Praise, praise!” I croak. Praise God for all we lose, for all the river of the years bears off. Praise Him for stillness in the wake of pain. Praise him for emptiness. And as you race to spill into the sea, praise him yourself, old Wear. Praise him for dying and the peace of death…”

“…She is Mary’s star. Within that little pool of Wear she winks at me. I wink at her. The secret that we share I cannot tell in full. But this much I will tell. What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.”

That was all I could digest.

As I replaced the makeshift bookmark, I noticed a scribble on the other side. I’d written, “When we lose one kind of freedom, we must choose another.”

What’s lost is nothing to what’s found.

Is there a better kind of freedom?

Is freedom of the spirit more crucial than physical freedom?  “It’s a matter of looking through the prison bars, not at them,” read my sermon notes.

Katherine, Jay, and James left the beach before the rest of us to attend a family reunion on Jay’s side.

As Katherine prepared to leave, I asked her, “Did you really have fun?”

“It was a blast,” she answered.

“I thought it might have made you a little sad with all the things you can’t do now. What’s your secret?” I questioned.

Her reply was spontaneous: “Just loving life and loving people.”

When Katherine was a little girl, she absorbed and believed everything I taught her about my new-found faith.

Now she is teaching me.

When everything else is taken away, what remains?

“…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.”
(I Corinthians 13:13)


Laurel said...

Sweet, poignant post.

Anonymous said...

My heart needed this today. Thank you.


Abby said...

Thank you for this beautiful piece today. If I ever get my act together, I am going to link to it. Thanks for the encouragement. God bless you, Kim!

Peggy Dabbs said...

So very beautiful! I was just happening to be reading Job in my bible today. What a coincidence.

I think we all experience to some degree at sometimes in our lives
"whys and what's left".

Love you,

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous post. Much to think about.

But I especially loved the picture at the top.


allison guyer said...

beautiful post. Katherine's heart is so full. Praise God!
much love and prayer,


Anonymous said...

this is what i needed to read. there is a lot going on in my family. a lot has been taken from us this year. it is indeed what's been taken away that reveals who we really are.

thank you.

The Mom said...

I cried nearly the whole way through this post. I knew from word one where you were going, and I knew you would be caught in that netherland where things are not what they were and we are still surprised and caught unawares by the power of our anger and our grief. I love your mother's heart. I also love that Kathryn has learned and is learning the deeper secret of finding her peace from within and not without. I would imagine Paul was a life-grabber who never missed an opportunity to pursue life with great zeal. It took him to the place where Stephen was stoned, the road to Damascus and then to a cramped prison cell in Rome. It seems paradoxical that chained and afflicted, this lion of a man nurtured, admonished and spoke truth that still resonates in the hearts of believers today. God has done and is doing that type of work in Kathryn. I know that you would desire God's best for her...always. I think God is pouring it out like mercy from heaven but the form that it inhabits is broken and weak and a is a woman that you call daughter but whom the Lord calls Beloved.

Lisa said...

Wow. Thanks again for sharing with us what God is teaching you. He often speaks to me through you.

ellenpaige said...

Kim, this post took my breath away. Literally. Thank you.

Amy Hogan said...

Kim - just spent a week at camp and while there, singer songwriter Christa Wells shared this song with us... I thought of it as I read this post tonight. (video performance) (lyrics)

This song was inspired by a blog post from Ann Voskamp's blog which I think you have referenced before.

Also, I have been reading and praying for all of you for the past 3 years. My husband was the Youth Minister at FBC Montgomery when little Jay was in the youth group. We have many fun memories with Jason! :)
Katherine's AVM happened on my oldest son's birthday and the Christmas Card picture that I received that year from the Wolf den :) still is on my refrigerator as my reminder to pray for all of you. I know you receive encouragment all the time... but I will echo my thankfulness and gratefulness for your vulnerability and authenticity in sharing the journey the Lord has you on. Feel free to pass along our love to Katherine and Jay if the opportunity should arise.

In Him and for His Glory,
Amy Hogan

Anonymous said...

"And me slowing for the hunt, looking for even one thousand more gifts, sanctuaries in moments, seeking the fullest life that births out of the darkest emptiness, all the miracle of eucharisteo." ( pg. 105 One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp)

And this from J.B. Phillips translation of 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a:

"Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. Love never fails."

Katherine's life is such a testimony to these two quotes.

You taught her well!

Your posts make me slow down and ponder. Thank you!


Karen said...

I love this Kim...and I love you :)

Anne Henderson said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. I especially love the pictures!

Kim said...

Words can't express the depth of how this post touched me tonight. Thank you (and Katherine) again for being God's voice to me..

Anonymous said...

I loved this one.


Cecilia said...

This is so beautiful! And you are right: Hard to digest...
Thanks for writing!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post! Thank you for sharing your heart. This reminds me of a book I am reading "Falling Upward" by Richard Rohr.