I knew a woman who was diagnosed with leukemia the year she turned 40.

She died two years later.

I turned 40 last week.

And that woman was my mother.

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If I had two years left to live what would I do with them?

If my days were numbered and my breath all counted out, what would be on my life and death to-do list?

Would I waste it on comparing someone else’s life to mine?

Or would I spend it lavishing delight on the ways God builds His Kingdom through my sisters.

I hope I’d have them all over for tea. Every other Tuesday.

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I’d dig deep into that peach and blueberry cobbler that Rose made without worrying about counting calories. I’d count the gift of each delicious bite prepared with love for me instead.

I’d push pause on my busy and get down on my knees and play dollhouse with my miniature daughter.

I’d twirl her curls around my finger and agree with her that yes, we are “best fwends forever.”

I’d open my eyes real wide and witness the “interruptions” with less irritation and more compassion.

I’d do forts in the living room and blankets piled high across the sofa without sighing and tapping my toe on an expiration date for the mess.

I’d do life – right there where the dishes can wait and the laundry can go unfolded.

I’d do baseball games and late night conversations under the comforter with my nine-year-old son. I’d say, “yes,” to cuddling through nightmares, “yes” to her “just one last hug, mama”, “yes” to his request for yet another back rub.

I’d dial back my busy and lean into slow.

I’d sit out on the front steps more often and care less about what my hair looked like.

I’d make time for the people on my street – take time for learning what conversations linger behind their closed front doors. I’d take time to talk less about me and more about them.

I’d let Micah make those chocolate chip cookies all by himself.

I’d run because I like to feel this body grow strong. Not because I was obsessed with it growing skinnier.

I’d be generous.

I’d forgive more, love wider, listen longer.

I’d revel in Sunday afternoon naps with Peter. Dreams and heartbeats beneath the soft, gray sheets. I would tell him all my secrets. And let him in. I’d believe that I am his beloved.

I’d give up being afraid in favor of being present.

I wouldn’t care how neatly the stuffed animals were lined up in the boys’ room, or whether or not Zoe put her clothes properly back on the shelf.

I’d be determined to pass on my stories to my kids – to imprint on their memories how I loved them, how I wanted them, how I chose them.

But I wouldn’t shelter them.

I’d talk to them about life and death and the wild wonder of a God who calls us home. Who doesn’t just wait at the door but comes running wildly down the road to get us.

I’d tell them all my Jesus stories. Especially the hard ones full of doubt.

And then I’d wrap them in my arms so hard they could barely breathe and assure them this is how Jesus loves us – especially on our crabby days.

I’d make Pete melktert every time he craved one.

I’d clean the bathroom because it meant I have kids who make it messy. Boys with terrible aim and terribly tender hearts who make it impossible to resent them when I’m too busy feeling grateful for them.

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And I’m sure I’d still lose my temper some days, but maybe, “sorry” would slip off my lips quicker.

And I’m sure we wouldn’t get it all right, but we’d remember what was worth getting right.

I’d snap all those measuring sticks that dictate jean size, and significance, and voice and dreams and passions and what makes a mother able to “have it all” right down the middle. I’d crack wide open the doubts that whisper that there’s a one-size fits all work in God’s great Kingdom.

I’d follow Him down back roads into the places He’s called me to serve. Without measuring their impact or cool factor first.

I’d still love books but I’d spend more time reading together instead of hoarding my alone time.

I’d keep my bedroom door open more. I’d offer second, third, ninth, eleventy-nine second chances.

I’d believe that one mom can make a difference in the eternities of her kids.

I’d make a list with their names on it and stick to it.

And we’d delight in giving away – ourselves, our time, our energy, our dreams.

We’d be generous together. We wouldn’t be afraid to look foolish.

We’d dance.

Right up until the end.

We’d dance right off the edge of the to-do list.

Like a mother I once knew who ran out under cover of a rainstorm and danced on a wild karoo farm garden until her children couldn’t resist and ran out into the joy with her, heads tilted back and mouths open to the wonder.

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She might be buried in the big veld vlakte behind that garden now —

but we have none of us forgotten how to dance.

 

 

 

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