Monthly Archives: January 2011

Sleep My Child

My baby has arrived at that wonderful age where all she does is give a few simple signs she is tired and we scoop her up, changed her diaper, possibly her clothes, and she’s off to bed.  She may fuss over her change or cry impatiently for a moment for her pacifier, but once she’s cozied in her soft sleep sack and snuggled into her silky blankets, the ones we slept with to imprint our smell upon before she was born, she’s closing her eyes and blissfully content to drift off to sleep. I swiftly glide out her bedroom door pausing to silently twist into place without a click to shut it tight.

 

On this night when I tucked her into her bed – fed, changed, sleep-sacked and blanketed – I was caught off guard by her fussing and resistance to rest.  As soon as her body touched the mattress, she was twisting over quickly to push herself to standing. She’d cling to the edge of her crib and cry.  I’d return to get her settled just so and begin my tip-toe backwards only a few steps before she’d pop up, eyes peeping across the top edge of her mahogany crib rail and cry out again.

 

As every tuned in parent knows, babies have a variety of cries, most of which we can decipher by some form of trial and error over time.  My baby’s cry tonight was her “I hurt” cry.  She begins with the usual “whaa, whaa” that could be any generic baby track background sound affect, but soon escalates to a high pitched squeal that trails off to a breathy sigh.  It is a heartbreaking attention getter that means something more than uncomfortable, over-tired or fussy.

 

Since all the usual props weren’t soothing to her, and despite two big kids waiting patiently downstairs for bed time stories and their cuddle time, I picked her up and settled into the big cozy rocking chair in the corner of her room.  Her stiff strained body melted over my shoulder and her legs went limp against my belly.  She whimpered a bit but her cries stopped with a full relieved breath.  Curious as to the cause of her pain,  I gently put a finger to her upper gums next to the two razor blade sharp front teeth she’d been wreaking havoc on me with lately and sure enough felt the swollen squishy gum tissue on either side.  I winced at her pain and rocked my baby girl.

 

She’s 13 months tomorrow, a year and then some and alive with activity.  It is rare that I get to snuggle her into my arms for more than a few minutes before she is writhing to get out and explore the world with the fullness of her five senses and pudgy limbs.  Drawers are emptied capriciously, bookshelves disheveled delightfully and then off she scoots at record speeds with that plump diaper covered bum waggling to and fro behind her to experiment with the next law of physics.  So to hold her still and peaceful in my arms felt like a sweet little indulgence that I intended to savor.  She looked up at me for a brief moment, brushed her fingers across my face and then closed her eyes drawing in a deep breath.  I could feel her head become heavy in the crook of my arm and her body sink deeper into the strength of mine holding hers safe and secure.

 

“You’ll be okay my sweet girl.  It will be okay” I whispered and rocked her slowly.

 

And the voice that reverberated in my head was not my own.  As I sought to reassure my girl, in words I know she can’t comprehend, I was reminded of my journey through incomprehensible pain, when I wondered how I would possibly survive, let alone comprehend the voice of God.  As searing as my pain was, razor blade sharp through the fragile tissues of my heart, I felt His loving arms holding me close.  I was reminded of the road I have endured and the days when He whispered these same words into my heart.

 

“You’ll be okay” He said, and I couldn’t fathom how that could be true.

 

“It will be okay”  I whispered again to my girl, knowing it would.

 

What a gift to be able to comfort my baby simply by holding her near to me.  The pain hadn’t stopped, her teeth are still tearing through her fragile flesh, as my baby boy was torn from mine with no breath.  Yet a simple touch was enough to make her feel comforted enough to close her eyes and get the rest her body needs.  What an honor to be God, the great comforter to us all.

 

We watched family movies tonight of the first year of baby pictures for my almost 7 year old daughter and almost 5 year old son.  We delighted in these captured memories, but I cried, hard, partly for the joy of their lives and partly for the baby pictures that are missing. Still raw two years later I am living out the time I thought would not come.  I am okay.  I heal and I hurt and I laugh and I cry, still.  And still God holds me, and rocks me, knowing my cries and soothing me for another day, He whispers “It will be okay.”

 

And I trust Him.

 

There is one lullaby I sing most often to my children that is truer than all the rest for me outside of a pure worship song.  It goes…

sleep my child and peace attend thee

all through the night

guardian angels God will send thee

all through the night

soft the drowsy hours are creeping

hill and vale in slumber steeping

I my loving vigil keeping

all through the night


 


Boy on the Brink

I took my two oldest children to a middle school performance of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe tonight to cheer on a kindergarten aged family friend who had a role in the play.  We sat near the back on the right hand side where the chairs angled inward so that the end seat had the best view up aisle to the stage.  This is where my 4 year old son sat with his 6 year old sister between us.  He turns 5 in just a few more weeks.

As he sat mesmerized by the show, I was mesmerized with him.  In a million wonderful, sometimes exasperating, full-of-life moments this baby of mine has become a little boy and is on the brink of that full blown big kid stage where R’s and L’s are pronounced with clarity, carrying him on my hip is a short-lived feat of supermom strength and toddler impulsivity is making way for calculated reasoning.  While a game of baseball or a star-wars-style sword fight would be his favorite mode of play, magic and make-believe still top his list of worthy pastimes.

The story unfolded on the stage and I glanced over at my sweet boy, too far away to hold his hand or wrap an arm around his shoulder. I took in his joy as a sentimental observer.

The adventure of the 4 siblings and the magical animals of Narnia, the dilemmas faced, the dramatic climax, and celebratory resolution, all kept his attention throughout the two-hour, past-his-bed-time performance.  He practically jumped out of his seat to shout “hooray” a few times, but mostly he sat leaned forward on his chair, feet dangling above he ground with his hands folded tightly, prayer-like, in front of his chest under a big grin.  His eyes never turned away from the action.

I was enchanted too, but by a far more amazing story of a little boy’s life.  I wanted to capture and keep him like this forever.  It felt symbolic that I couldn’t quite reach him to snuggle him into my arm and share his joy.  He was having his own experience, as he is in so many ways already in life.  I knew we would do the play-by-play talk we always do after a special event on the way home, but I would never fully know what was in his head all that time.  The enactment of this great story originally penned by C.S. Lewis was weaving itself into the fabric of his thinking and feeling as all great forms of art do to us in life.

With a baby in the picture now, I’ve been thankful for my son’s abilities and burgeoning independence.  He was slower to say “I do it” than my oldest daughter was and there were times I lamented his whiny “you do for me” as he sat capably choosing to stare helplessly at a pair of socks just past his pudgy bare feet.  With two children not quite two year apart, self-reliance was a sanity producing cause, but tonight I wanted to stop all that progress and hang on to my little boy.  I love him so very much that I don’t want to think about the day when he will no longer need me for so much of his care.

It is a such a strange thing we take on as moms.  We give our bodies and then all the physical and emotional energy we can muster completely over for the care and love of the most dependent animal on earth.  And then slowly over time, their need for us unravels to reveal what we hope will be a capable human being.  Then, before either of us could possibly be ready, we are to launch them into the world, out of our careful sight to experience and endure whatever comes their way.

My son’s name means “Vigorous” or “Battle Chief,” a little more intense a meaning for a name than I would have probably gravitated toward.  Yet my body began laboring and bleeding 8 weeks too soon when pregnant with him putting me on bed rest for a while and introducing fear into conception.  So this meaning for his name became a well-fitting prayer for him to hold on and grow in strength and vigorousness.  Plus, he was active and wild in there, so it fit.

The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe had come out in theaters that winter of my 2nd pregnancy.  With a year and half old toddler at home, it was a privilege to see it on the big screen on a rare date night with my husband.  I remember the climactic battle scene when the eldest brother Peter led the charge to save Narnia.  He did so with courage and integrity.  He had been a gentle, kind boy up until that point of the story and I was moved by the strength of character he showed in boldly following a call to action.  I caught a vision for how this name that meant “Battle Chief” could personify my sweet son of Adam.

After the play, on our drive home I told my son this story of his name and it’s meaning.  He smiled and I could see the stories playing out in his mind, the one I described and the ones he was conjuring up.  He is an infinite pool of imagination and energy.  With a fully formed story of dragons and Knights and magical lands far away, he’ll often race through the house with his cape flying behind him, foam sword poised and ready and pause near me to say “I’m off to save the day!”

“You go for it!” I cheer with a smile, and know that he will indeed change the world.

Lord I pray that you will guide my son and that your love will always feel present to him.  That he too may lead with courage and with kindness.  That he will be true to the calling you place upon his heart and will become everything you had in mind when you created him.  Thank you that he is mine too and I get to be a witness to all this.  Amen


Leaving and Cleaving

As I was sorting the stack of ongoing clutter in the corner of our kitchen counter, I came across a year-in-review letter I’d yet to read from a family I knew and loved when we lived in California.  I can’t stop crying.  The letter was a simple detailing of the ins and outs of bits and pieces of their lives; a few highlights fitted into the standard one page Christmas letter that I know just scratches the surface of all that is really going on for them.  It is a letter I look forward to every year, partly because I love them and partly because the love they share for each other that is evident in the letter is such an encouragement to me. They are a family I look up to and have sought to emulate in the ways they care for each other, their kids, in how they celebrate life, and live out their faith.

Jim and Angela were a couple with young kids when I was a newlywed-grad-student-young-life-staffer in California.  I was too busy, and not quite ready, for my own kids, but hopeful.  Their kids were the ages mine are now and though I have seen them growing up in this yearly letter and our facebook friendship, my mind holds onto them as little boys.  But the thing is, they are not little boys, they tower over me.   And the thing that is cutting me to the core is that their oldest son is in his senior year and will be graduating, and leaving to go to college, and really, I just can’t bear it.

He will be starting out on his own life adventures that I could so easily encourage in the teenagers I worked with when I was a Young Life leader there.  Oh how naive I was that it was all so very wonderful.  I was closer in age to them than their parents and having a wonderful time living out my newly adult adventures.  So yes, go do wonderful things with your life!  Hooray!

But now I am the parent.  And so now, I can’t stop crying, and I know the reason is partly because I know what the future might bring all-to-soon for my little ones, but also because we are in our own season of transition.

I am returning to work after a much extended maternity leave. I have spent months preparing in my heart and mind and in our home and gathering the support people we need and making a good schedule so that I am still with my kids for a majority of their hours.

Change though, as prepared for, prayed over, and good as it might be, brings up feelings of loss and worries of future regret, and I am one to fret and weigh, and consider and reconsider big decisions.  In the end, there are many reasons it makes sense for me to return, but the thought of missing one single moment with my kids, knowing that someday I would give anything to have these moments back is almost unbearable.

The reality for me though, is that I enjoy my work.  I feel called to it, created for it and find immense meaning and purpose in doing it.  The other reality for me is that I get restless in my role as mom and wife and homemaker; roles I also feel very much called to and created for, but my mind takes me other places and I long to do other things too.  As much as I seek to capture the moments of these sweet days and live content, aware of how precious and fleeting they are, I find when I take time for intellectual and creative pursuits I am rejuvenated.  I return to my family energized in a unique way that seems to actually make me more aware and intentional about the sacred time we spend with one another.  Not always, of course, because work can be hard and taxing in it’s own right, but often enough to matter.

And so this morning, with our 4 year old son snuggled between us in bed, our baby girl waking to nurse at an hour I’d rather be sleeping and our first grade girl bounding with excitement for what her school day brings, I am weepy and sentimental about it all.  I can’t seem to capture them enough in my heart to make them stay this way forever.  Because in a moment, my infant will be taking her first steps, my pre-school son will not have leisurely mornings with me building blanket forts, and my oldest will be off to college too.  My heart will be full and broken because I love them so so so very much.

My hope is that we will have created a family so saturated in love that we are free spring forth into the world to be who God has created us to be knowing we are able to return safe to welcoming arms flung wide open, emulating our Savior who delights in relationship with us.

There is a wall in Jim and Angela’s house that is lined with frames, floor to ceiling.  They are the kind of frames with many openings and are full of photos from their family activities and vacations.  When I last visited I pored over those frames, a privileged witness to all that love.  I put it into my mental to-do’s to surround our house with visual memories of our family memories too.  It is New Year’s time two years later, maybe this will be the year.  But is is not because the memories haven’t been created that the pictures have not been hung yet, I just haven’t had or made the time for the visual aids.  I do have to give myself credit for the intentional time that has been spent, both in the everyday moments and in the special experiences.  We don’t live this existence everyday, not at all, we have our very normal, chore-filled, carpool toting, budget conscious, every-day lives, but we are constantly processing and pondering how to be intentional about capturing these days, aware of how quickly they will pass.

Still, I am choosing to work, for a snippet of time. I will leave for my first day, and possibly my 30th day, back to work and I will be excited and I will cry.  But my kids will be in good hands and we will spend special time together when I get home, and when we go to the park or on a vacation or cuddle in bed after stories and talk about who they want to be when they grow up as they try to comprehend what their mama and papa do outside of their most important lives.

There is no perfect formula to all this.  Sometimes I will wonder if I made the right choice, in the right time, and things will go wrong, hopefully little solvable things, because that is just the way life is.  I am thankful to worship a God who has given me the free will to pursue Him in this life with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength.  May I honor you Lord as I walk the path before me and cleave to You above all, Amen