When Your Days Are Numbered

There are not so many.

In morning light in the woods, I kneel low with a camera.

In a clearing of saplings, a woman smiles into the March winds. I click the shutter. She began chemo this week to contain four cancerous lumps that can’t contain her mouthed thanks to God. I say, “Cheese!” and her four-year-old tilts his head and flashes his dimple. Her five children ring her like a promise.

Less than ten miles away, my sister sits in a rocking chair watching the red digits blink on an oximeter.

The 24/7 monitoring of oxygen saturation levels of my niece born under heaving breath prayers. The child whose every breath reminds us to pray to YHWH, God whose name sounds like our own breathing. For 73 days, they have written down the numbers, high, low, of her lungs inhaling, exhaling… stopping.

Mid-afternoon in the kitchen, Hope turns at the sink and smiles at me, her with hair pulled back in a barrette and laying long down her back, her wearing my sweater but her shoes because mine are too small now. It’s only a turning, but I’m struck. Awakened to my daughter who doesn’t seem a child anymore. She is 12 and she isn’t. So tall and lovely. She reaches for a towel.

She’s a stem of slender grass, tall and lovely, hardly swaying in spring winds.

I hardly murmur it. “I think my days are numbered now….”

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Weren’t they always?

And I just don’t bother keeping track?

My eyes can’t leave her, taken with her so grand.

Hope dries her hands on the towel, knits her brow, confused. “Why are your days numbered?”

Numbered. Psalm 90.

Lord, teach me to number my days that I may present to you a heart of wisdom.

I hadn’t meant that. My sister recording oxygen numbers. A mother of five counting chemo days.

I half smile, only a bit tender in the upturning… “Just thinking. The days of being taller than my children are numbered now. By summer’s end — you’ll be looking down at your old Mama….”

She blushes, shakes her head, that long mane of hair falling thick over her shoulders, laughing… “Mama!

She’s elegance. Willow girl, sky eyes. I record the moment.

Numbered.

Is this how He teaches?

How else to seize a heart of wisdom with your life?

Number the beats, record the blessings, enumerate the gifts, see One at the center of it all, and know there is much and it is fleeting and it is in the accounting of a life that we accumulate thanks for anything in life. This way is gone all too soon. Who keeps track to keep a heart of wisdom, to keep a perspective that keeps Him in focus?

Is it the accountants who know the full measure of His grace?

The heart of wisdom, always this accounting heart…

Hope is bent over Shalom, Shalom with bows in her hair that Hope once wore and how much longer these ribbons of pink? I watch them and wonder if this is it:

The way to learn to number our days is to count the moments of His grace…

I don’t want to miss what this all sums up to.

The children making up games about a grandmother’s big toe … and the girl-giggles shaking rocking chairs … and the deepening laughter of teenage boys and the robin bobbing scarlet hope across the back lawn, a blaze, and the littlest in her striped leotards … and sons with widening shoulders and a brother smiling when the other walks into this living room tumbling with jokes…  and the Farmer stealing a side-ways grin my way and him saying: “Isn’t it just good medicine to hear them all so happy?”

And her so long and lovely in my kitchen, turning and unfurling, her one heart beating this steady mercy…

One long certain beat after one long surrendered beat…

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Here on the farm… internet flickers alive a bit now, late on Monday? Tomorrow, we try a different internet provider? Thank you for grace…
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