Tag Archives: Faith

Keeping Vigil

I am awake much too late, and not haphazardly. After a long weekend of late night wedding celebrations and a long play-filled visit with dear friends from childhood, I was more than ready for an early night’s rest. But alas, my husband is on a journey north, a long journey, after a long weekend for him too, and I am prone to keep vigil until he arrives safely at his destination. I will not sleep soundly until he does. God bless me when I have teenagers!

My husband Scott gave an inspiring homily at the wedding of JIm and Mary Anne Frank about the work of a relationship. Citing wisdom from the New Testament and referencing the tides he bases life around when fishing, he gave a charge to all in relationships to serve one another wholeheartedly and be ready for the changes, and there will be goodness. He danced into the night with a grateful wife and 3 giddy children. It is a rare treat to get to be at a wedding together as the salmon season in Canada usually takes precedence to everything summer. But now he is a pastor, and his work divides his time, forcing a bit of normal summer life upon him when he is home overseeing ministry rather than the 18 hour days a seasonal resort requires of him. But, he must to return north.

His long journey began at 4:00 a.m this morning in Spokane so that he would be able to take guests fishing at 4:00 a.m. the following morning in northern British Columbia. He caught a flight to Seattle in time to pastor and preach at our satellite campus church, Bethany North. After the final chair had been stacked and the last storage trailer had been parked, he headed north toward the Canadian border for the beginning of a 10 hour trip. Meeting an overbooked ferry early in the day added a 2 1/2 hour wait to his journey and negated his chances of catching the last possible ferry to Malcolm Island, his final destination. McGyver-style, he figured it all out and had a boat delivered to the main Island, so he could arrive at his final destination in time.

As I nestle my children to bed, gather up my own good book to read and snuggle myself in at a very reasonable hour, I find I am wide awake waiting and can’t focus on my reading. His cell phone coverage is spotty in the more desolate parts as he drives the length of Vancouver Island so when he last could call I asked him to text when he arrived at the boat and then again when he had made it across. I have seen what can be in the water during the day. I know every last person at his destination will be sound asleep. The night crossing has me anxious, as does his late night drive after long full, albeit fun, days. I will keep vigil for him.

11:26 p.m. the first text comes in: “Port McNeill. Beautiful night for a boat ride”

I have been waiting and praying, for his safe arrival. He must be exhausted. I wish I could give him the gift of sleep he so often offers me when he’s up at fisherman’s hours in the off-season months to care for our early risers. I would drive the car or the boat late into the night while he slept, if only I could be journeying with him. But I am now hundreds of miles away and my only point of common reference is the dark starry sky out my window. I pray it will be bright for him.

My favorite lullaby to my children is my favorite for the words,

“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.”

That is what I do, keep vigil at night. I hear every sound, every cry, every pitter pat of tiny feet, every questionable bump in the night inside or outside. I am alert, even when I am sound asleep, I will awake and take on the night. I will do everything I can to nurture and protect my family, every hour of the day. I would have done well as a Shepherd and honored to be in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But the reality, is I can only do so much. Really, I can’t do much at all when I consider what truly might take my child’s breath or put us in danger. The real comfort of this lullaby comes not in resonating with my loving vigil, but the prayer of the beginning: Peace attend thee, my child, God will send Guardian Angels (Thanks be to God). I only keep watch, it is He who will protect thee. (Please and Amen).

I swoop into my children’s rooms each night just before I go to bed to hold my vigil one last time before I seek my own sleep. When my husband is away, I am all the more vigilant. Tonight though, it is his journey away from us that keeps me waiting and watching for his safe arrival. I realize how powerless I am from afar to protect him, just how powerless I will be as my children grow older, gain more freedoms and eventually depart from my home. But still I will keep my vigil, still I will pray. My only strength is His, that He provides guardian angels, that He keeps watch.

12:02 “Home. Bed. Goodnight.”

12:03 “Oh good, I love you!”

“Sleep my child and peace attend thee,” He whispers to me.


Great With Child a book review

Resolution is in sight! As I transfer all my files from one computer to another and onto an external hard drive for safekeeping until I get my pc wiped and re programmed (today is my appointment!) I am coming across things I have written in the past and thought this was a fun piece to share. Great With Child is easily my favorite book of all time. And, THIS was actually my first publication, it was for our MOPS newsletter a few years back. I hope you enjoy…

I have a bit of an obsession with books, not that I find much time to read them these days, but even so, I yearn to consume the written word with an insatiable hunger for information and inspiration. Books on parenting, devotionals, a good novel or two, professional resources and plenty of abc’s and 123’s are strewn across my headboard, jammed into shelves in every room, packed into my office and sometimes placed strategically near the toilet (where it seems I get my most consistent reading in these days). Of all these books that serve one purpose or another in my life, there is one I go to like a latte after another night of broken sleep and savor like good chocolate after a season of lent. Great with Child: Reflections on Faith, Fullness and Becoming a Mother is a favorite manuscript in my library. My mind and soul yearn for the words on these pages as a most genuine reflection of the range of emotion I feel at this great juncture.
Debra Rienstra, an English professor from Calvin College, writes with eloquence, humor, candor and faith about all topics feminine. We get to ride the river of life with her from the deep yearning for motherhood, to the grumpy perfectionism that rises in us as we seek to “nest” just-so; laughter over various bodily fluids excreted by mother and child soon after birth, to reverence over our ability to join the Creator in creation, shedding blood to have children as Jesus shed His blood for us. Rienstra shares the story, that feels like pieces of every woman’s story, of her own struggle toward conception, the sacred walk of pregnancy, questions of identity in work and relationships, and the ultimate bliss, chaos and meaning that comes with a child.
Drawing on a myriad of writings both secular and sacred, she is single-handedly the best book-club resource for mothers who would like to stay connected to something intellectual without sacrificing these fleeting days of splashy bath times, wide-eyed-wonder and high pitched “I wove yous.” And the best part is the book can, and should be read a little at a time. One paragraph, one sentence even, begs to be tasted and savored. Akin to a dear friend speaking words of truth so piercing that tears well-up at being thus well known, Great with Child illuminates the sacredness of womanhood mixed with motherhood as a beautiful tapestry, breathtaking overall and precious in detail.
Daunting to find one quote that might exemplify the book, Rienstra’s own response to how she did it sums well. One asks “You wrote this book during your third pregnancy and then during the baby’s first year? Are you crazy? I haven’t been able to write up a decent grocery list since my first baby was born!” Amen sister. Riesntra’s responds “I am not exactly sure…I had to do it…Giving life to a child seemed to irradiate my thoughts about everything else – the body, womanhood, culture, God-everything. I wanted to read something that treated motherhood in the fullness of its dimensions, social, and personal, body, mind, and soul.” And to her newborn son, and thus vicariously to us all “For you is the mystery waiting, for you it was hidden for ages in God who created all things. Be rooted and grounded in love. Comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth. Know those things that surpass all knowledge. Be filled to the measure, my little one, with the fullness of God.” And again, I say, amen.


Process or Prophecy

I signed the waiver detailing the inherent risks in travel and read the recommended reasons for travel insurance. One was to get my body home in the case of my death. I feared leaving my children, “what if something happens to them while I am gone?” I thought, “what if something happens to me and they have to endure the loss?” It was unbearable to consider.

But suddenly I had arrived in Italy and Scott was with me and everything was as we had remembered on our honeymoon. I was happy and at peace. It was warm, the sun was shining and we were walking hand in hand down a cobblestone street in Montalcino, smiling at one another and taking it all in. The road was wide with tall stone houses all in a row to our left and the low town wall beside it with a view of the bright green Tuscan landscape rolling beyond. Even the furniture in our room was familiar, pieces had come from our home. I felt welcome and secure.

Then Scott was gone and I was walking by myself again along the road looking out over the bright green hills touching azure blue sky, signature cypress trees, and a few terra cotta colored villas when two parachuters came gliding slowly down from high above. It was a breathtaking sight, I felt the allure of their adventure. Except one was having trouble. The red parachute was billowing all around his body, sucked to him with only small pillows of trapped air inside. His arms and legs were flapping frantically to push it away and up so that it could gather air again. My heart was pounding as he started falling faster. I started running toward him. Someone must help him! I must do something!

Running closer I knew I was helpless. I was too far away. Immediately I prayed, big, strong, you-better-hear-me-God prayers and I ran to the edge of the green, then gasped for air, and jolted awake.

Body sweating, heart still racing, I was trembling as I looked at the clock, 4 a.m. I started to cry, the dream like a postcard image burning bright colors in my mind. It was too real, too symbolic. Was it process of prophesy?

Over the next few days I couldn’t shake the fear I felt in that moment and wondered if I was going to be able to do this, if was I making a big mistake. Our family has already been devastated by grief, could I knowingly make a choice that involves some level of risk? Oh Dear God, these inevitable losses will happen someday, I know full well, but please not now, nor anytime too soon, I just don’t think I could bear it quite yet.


Blood Drips Down

There is a scene in my longtime favorite movie She’s Having a Baby where hopeful parents Jake (Kevin Bacon) and Kristy (Elizabeth McGovern) are in the hospital, about to have their first baby when suddenly things start going wrong. Jake is forced out of the delivery room as his wife lies writhing in pain screaming “I’ve got to get it out! I’ve got to get it out!” and the doctor is urgently telling her to stop pushing. They give her a shot of medication, she passes out, oxygen mask goes on, sheets are ripped off of her large pregnant belly and the tray of surgical instruments rolls in. Flash to Bacon standing alone in the hospital hallway with shock, anger and fear on his face. Piano music starts and a high pitched whispery voice of Kate Bush begins,

“Ah ha ah ahhh, oooh” in an etherial, lulling tone that forces stillness upon this imminently altering moment in their lives.

Flashbacks of their life together, of the good and the funny and the tender and sweet moments, roll in his mind.

“Pray God you can cope” the voice sings

A tear begins to fall from his face and when it lands on the ground it is a drop of blood next to his wife’s hospital bed.

That drop of blood, color of life, reference of death, leaves us hanging, scared, hopeful, preparing for the worst and praying for the best.

All of life, we do this.

Blood started to come yesterday evening, and all of these emotions settled into the numbness that allows me to function, to seem to forget what flows fiercely beneath the surface, in the face of the tragic. Will it be well?

I was going to text my dearest friends for prayer, but didn’t want to be alarmist, didn’t want to allow fear to take hold. Should I have waited to tell them the good news until the “safe” twelfth week? I have lived and known even week 41 not to be safe. We waited with my first pregnancy, had a miscarriage at 8 weeks and spent the next year hoping month after month after lonely, scary, isolating month this would be the one when we would share the good news with the bad, and confess to the pain we had endured alone. Too many months passed, the narrative when finally unfolded felt hollow, a tin bucket that echoed with a pang of the details that had once been full of tears. We told at a moment’s notice with our next, my graduation day from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, when family and dear friends would be gathering to celebrate just days before we were to move away to Seattle. We relished the joy shared with our community of loved ones and our hearts broke to leave them. Little did they know how hard earned this joy was for us, the many many months of trying and the harsh blood that kept saying no each month.

Do we wait to invite those most dear, the world around us, into our joy that might become pain? Who are we seeking to protect? Of course I’d rather not tell the bad news after the good. But I think I would rather tell the bad news than have that hollow lonely experience ever again. We waited the full twelve weeks to tell the kids and the masses of our second son, whom we lost full term, and were ever so careful to wait to share the news of the baby who followed, our baby Bird now 16 months. This newest baby was a miracle of all miracles, meant to be from the amazing details of the conception and timing. God was in this and that meant fruition right?

“I’ve often bled early in my pregnancies, when the baby implants,” I told myself and my husband, who knows my history nearly as intimately as I, attempting to reassure us.

This wasn’t early enough though and I knew it. I was too far along. I knew it was too late. So I said my own prayers and went to bed, hoping for the best by morning, when my first OB appointment was already scheduled, first thing. I would have answers.

Blood was still coming by morning. My huge belly, that popped out so quickly there was no way of even trying to hide my pregnancy from my children, and therefore the world, was already gone. Noticing my flat profile in the mirror while in the shower, I tried pushing it out, pulling on my skin with my hands, forcing it to look full again and trying to convince myself it was. But I knew. I had barely eaten dinner the night before, made it through the night without having to use the bathroom. Symptoms and signs were fading, and I knew.

I texted some friends who pray.

But I wouldn’t believe until I was in the ultrasound room, that horrible, awful ultrasound room where the black cavity of my baby Fisher’s chest proved his heart was no longer beating. I couldn’t wait to get to that room, and I almost passed out when I went in. Oh, yes, this terrible place of truth, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, where I hoped that a serpent had not taken my baby but a God who loves us would have breathed life into her.

I have known the image of that 8 week bean with the pin top fluttering heart beat 5 times now, I knew what I was looking for. The search and search and attempts to find something within the black void of a small yolk sac were unnecessary. She was gone, there wasn’t even a lifeless form of white, just that damn circle of darkness and a bit of a cloud of blood escaping from the top.

“I am so sorry,” my OB looked at me, concerned for me.

I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I knew,” unable to cry just yet.

She had been so happy to see us that morning, we were all so excited to bury that hard story we’d drudged our way through and add one more for the good guys to the score board.

“This isn’t anything you did” she reassured.

“We’ve been moving, life has been full,” I confessed.

This is my life. Do I sit reclined on a one armed settee like a Victorian maiden with a plate of meats and grapes by my side, my children playing silently in white batiste dresses at my feet while I rest and nap all day? No. I live a normal life. I do things. I get up and care for my children and do a bit of outside work and volunteer where I can and am needed, I help with the recent extra needs of our family’s move, but did no heavy lifting and went to bed early and avoided deli meats and unpasteurized cheeses and tuna and alcohol and too much caffeine. I followed all the rules, I took care of my baby, followed the cues of my body, had a few busy days with pressing deadlines to be sure, but didn’t feel tension or stress, stayed physically, intentionally calm and reminded myself “it will be what it will be and there is nothing more I can do” when I was too tired to continue as I would pre-pregnancy. There was no task more important than the creation of this life.

I made all my confessions to Dr. B, I have been there before, and she shook her head at me until she could get a word in to say “No, there was something wrong that didn’t allow this baby to grow.”

She measured six weeks, I was undoubtedly eight, knowing my exact day of conception which absolutely miraculously and ironically was the exact day of conception of my son Fisher from three years before. I was amazed my body would line up in such a way and it felt like a detail of redemption. Two weeks ago my life was less full than the last. That made me feel better too.

Dr. B explained what to expect, knowing I’d been here before any of my babies were born, gave me some options and set me up for a follow up appointment at the latest possible time at the end of the week in case there might be something to hope for.

The blood kept coming, bright and heavy, and hope dissipated. Once we walked through the glass door of the waiting room that held bellies full of anticipation I finally felt my stoic strength release and the tears surged and carried me down the hall, into the elevator, through the lobby and out the automatic glass doors. When the free and fresh air and the loudness of the city surrounded us, I could speak and I sobbed out, “I was so excited. I wanted this baby so much.”

My husband’s arm sheltered me tight and he said “me too,” tears releasing for him too.

“Can I buy you lunch?” I knew the abundance of work he had put off putting in extra hours on our move so that I wouldn’t have to, I knew it was a sacrifice for him to spend more time with me while we had childcare and potential work hours in front of us.

“Sure” I said, receiving the gift of his presence, “I want a turkey sandwich with blue cheese on it and a coke” I said defiantly.

That night I took iron and vitamin C to prepare for the large amount of blood loss, drank a glass of wine and made the brownies I’d been craving for a week, easing back into a life less calculated.

“How is that diet for miscarriage prep?” I texted one of my dearest dietician friends my late night snack.

She was reassuring and offered to be with me in the morning, and bring me food. Another dear friend brought dinner, others offered help and sent kind messages of their love and prayers. I felt God’s presence in their support and was grateful I had shared our joy, had weeks of time to revel and celebrate together, so that when this loss came I was not a hollow bucket trying futilely to explain the importance of a scene a you had to have been there for.

I am alone in this. No one else can do this for me, or with me, or take away the pain in my body, deep in my heart.

I stand outside this woman’s work,
This woman’s world.
Ooh, it’s hard on the man,
Now his part is over.
Now starts the craft of the father.

But I am loved in this. I am given grace and peace and comfort and the sustenance I need to endure this.

I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.

I managed to get up and outside in the early evening when the sun was still glowing bright in our new cul-de-sac and play with my children. I shot a few baskets with the big kids who are excitedly taking to this new game their papa has been waiting years to have the right space to teach them. I pushed my baby girl on her trike and the scooter she isn’t nearly big or coordinated enough for but expresses such joy in being given a ride. We were all smiling and laughing and my body was bleeding and cramping but it felt good to be out and in the sun and in this moment. A new neighbor gave me a big embracing hug that felt like she’d been my dear friend for years. Another came out with her daughter, the same age as my baby, and the babies smiled and hugged their same size new friend. I looked around me as if my life was standing still and praised God I’d been given so much to be grateful for.

This is my body, broken for you…
This is my blood, poured out.

And I remember what He has done for me.


Presence of Place

Coinciding with the last day in our home, after long days of packing and moving and unpacking and still surrounded by so much work, we took relief in attending a Good Friday service at our home church. It was a beautiful reprieve to be able to sit, quiet, contemplative in the dark and remember the sacrifices of my savior that gives me a life I don’t deserve. To be able to worship, fully, as if alone, and to let floodgates of tears break free, as I used to most every time I worshiped in this place, as I needed to and could, it had been so long.

The places we live and breath and go to matter, they contain the life we live and give structure to it. But I know, as with everything else on this earth, they are temporal, and not the true things of this life. We attended this place, this new sanctuary and the old just across the street, for 7 years, a significant little lifetime. Now that my husband pastors the satellite campus, we no longer come here to worship and I miss it, the way I will miss our home, also a place of knowing God, of worship and nurturance, of so many memories of the rich life we had here. I carry in my belly what we believe will be the last of our children, our 5th, (unless twins) and I am remembering our pregnant beginnings here when parenthood would be brand new. It was my first of many winter pregnancies and I remember sitting in the old chapel, where we used to have church when the numbers were smaller, it was cozy and glowing with candlelight and I was immersed in identifying with Mary’s hope and awe for a child who would change the world. We were new to Seattle, pregnant for the second time, the first to last, and expectant of all the wonder and love that lay ahead. We’ve had 4 children since while in this building, devoted 3 to the Lord in dedication services we take as seriously as our wedding vows, grieved and mourned and wailed the loss of one whose middle name was Samuel, same as the son of Hannah who’s story is shared with each dedication – he was going to change the world too, in leaving us he did.

Tonight we sat hand in hand tucked in the back of the sanctuary through the whole service, something I no longer get to do with my husband and more than simple memory scenes came over me, as they have in our home these past few days, but the cumulative emotions of everything we experienced here was overwhelming to me. Again, so good to sit in the dark, to cry at a somber service that allows me to remember my savior’s death, see scenes of my son’s death, of births, of faces I love and have loved me, remember faces that are gone and realize so much here has changed too. I feel the hope that Easter is coming. It will be the first morning in our new home. It will be new life for us.

So much is unknown, it is hard to remember sometimes that I know of the resurrection, that this death is not final. I know the pain of change, that the days between Good Friday and Easter are short lived, and that He is present beside me in all of it. But I want to hold on to everything I hold dear, I want change to happen, but I want things to stay the same too. And when I repeat that it is “everything I hold dear” that matters, I know full well that everything I hold dear comes with me. In these days of tears, of remembering so much that was so good, and so hard which is meaningful too, I have been so aware of the fullness of life I have with the people who live and are welcomed in these walls. In the carpool or a park or mundane places like Costco, I have been sweetly reminded that it is my little (some would say big) family that gave any life at all to the walls and the rooms and the yard of our house, and it happens everywhere we go together. Similarly, as we have been intentional about having last gatherings with dear friends to say our goodbyes, we’ve exchanged mutual reassurances that the relationships will not go, even as we do.

He will come too, He is already there. When I am not always sure the why or the what of the path we seek to faithfully follow, I take comfort in knowing He is with me, and that His life gives everything that matters to my life.


Unrest

On this Sabbath Sunday, so soon after my restful Saturday, I fall into bed exhausted, no rather weary. It was a long day, marked by goodness to be sure: I celebrated the life of my oldest, watched with pure joy as she was celebrated by dear friends, laughed and skated with her, talked long after her early bedtime about the day’s events and some deeper things between a mother and a daughter. I looked endearingly upon my son as he talked up a storm with a younger sister of my daughter’s friend, barely an acquaintance to him, and yet he chats easily and laughs and makes silly faces as if they go way back. He’s just the best thing ever, a charmer who is charming because he genuinely loves. And lest we forget the littlest, drug around all day to church and errands and party, no place to nap or have peace for a little one who relies on it, but for a few precious minutes fell deeply to sleep in my arms like she used to when brand new and I pulled her heavily breathing face near to mine to breath her in. I felt goodness and peace in the velvet smooth of her sweet cheek. I needed her slumber to force stillness upon me for just those few moments today.

I began reading “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp weeks ago and can’t get past the first few chapters as each time I pick it back up and get caught back up I get stuck re-reading the beginning chapters.

“The end will come.
Doctor’s warning or not the end will come, and this life of the bare toes across grass, the sky raining spring down on eyelashes, the skin spread close under sheets, blink of the fireflies on dusky June nights – all this will all end…

“Which road through this brief land? What is all most important? How to live the fullest life here that delivers into the full life after?…

How does one live ready, and always?…But, someone, please give me – who is born again but still so much in need of being born anew – give me the details of how to live in the waiting cocoon before the forever begins?…

How do we live fully so we are fully ready to die?”

Does anyone else live tormented by these questions?

She details unrest and longing and deep awareness of beauty and goodness that so resonates with my soul. The book begins with a vivid scene of her great loss, she gets it, and she goes on to write of the longing for meaning in the everyday-ness of life. I get that.

I will never be carefree to the reality of death and great loss ever again in this lifetime. Fearfulness which took residence years before great loss even hit me personally (but surely to those I dearly love, a trauma of it’s own), when I only held the awareness of the possibility, now takes a permanent place in my lense on life. I see the range of color, the bright, the beautiful, the rare, the true, but always there is the possibility of black, always there is awareness of what might never be ever more.

“Perfect love drives out fear” (I John 4:18) I know, I have that one memorized, along with all the other verses on fear. Made myself a bookmark once. Diligently wrote scripture on my heart. But I am not perfect and still I get scared. I know the verse refers to God’s perfectness but what does that really mean to me when I know that bad things can still happen under his perfect watch? I can trust, (I know, I know) his perfect plan, (yes, yes) but sometimes that perfect plan hurts so damn bad that it is impossible to view life without the knowledge of what might be, both the glorious and horrendous. In full awareness of all that is awesome and beautiful, searing, gut wrenching, and life altering, pain can happen, is happening now, everywhere. My awareness of this, does not weaken my faith but brings me closer to my God who knows this pain even greater than I. Everywhere He is aware of it, and still He is good. I choose to believe. I hope to let go.

I don’t live dark or leary in the day to day and my faith can hold the mindset that I am safe if I just think I am because it is He who is keeping me safe. I know there is a plan. On some level that is comforting, sometimes. Call me Peter, ye is me.

In the wake of loss, the pressure is on to live purposefully even more so, as the stark reality of an un-promised tomorrow always lingers, for me, my children (God no!), my soul-mate. So as I pursue things of purpose, parenting as if it was essential as oxygen, always, always aiming to please God, acting as if His pursuit of me is my uphill climb, much that feels purposeful can also ring hollow, feel “busy”, nothing like the mountain top high seemingly promised. And lucky for me, one who blames so easily, most profusely myself, I then take the burden upon myself – not spiritual enough, discerning enough, self-aware enough, hard-working enough, enough, enough.

I could end with verses that are hopeful, stay true to my title and the undercurrents that carry me along and buoy me to full breath, but the raging surface of the deep waters tonight is tumultuous, and that is where I am. This too true pieces of my humanity. Not at all what I would assign hope to, and yet there is my most favored book of Ecclesiastes that speaks of those times, those times for everything. I feel them all, everything.


Communion

photograph by Mauro Guerrero


Flesh of my flesh
bone of my bone
I held his body
weeping
in my arms

clinging to life
no longer

blood dripped down
nestled
in my clinging embrace
on the shoulder
of soft black bamboo pajamas
worn to receive him tenderly

I neither changed
nor showered
for days
to keep him there
as one carries the visceral
of every child

so heartbreakingly loved

This is my body
broken for you
This is my blood
poured out

Do this
in remembrance of me

Regularly, and still
I dine on Christ
at once full aware
of the depth
of my starvation
and the height
of incomprehensible sustenance


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


 


A Thrill of Hope in a Weary World

Oh Holy Night speaks of the dual nature of hope and suffering in life like no other Christmas carol.  It speaks to my heart and gives me reason to praise.  As I seek to sing in a season of remembrance and hope, the lyrics acknowledge I am often pining and weary and hurting.  It says He knows this.  He knows our need.  He knows us! And in knowing Him, our soul finds worth, even in the midst – and maybe especially – when we have trials.  We are loved, valued, treasured – of worth.  I will overcome my suffering, because He will overcome it – all oppression shall cease.  At the top of my lungs, in a pitch I can barely reach, I sing my heart out…
.
.
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim

The Most Awful Silence Part I

Pregnancy does me well.  I relish the idea of creating life and all that goes on in these miraculous months, from the formation of first cells to an entirely put together human being.  When I got my period at thirteen I was in utter awe of the whole situation.  I came out to the living room, plopped myself down by my mom on the couch and staring out in a daze said, “I can’t believe my body did that!”

“Did what?” she asked.

“Released an egg!” I said.

When I met my husband, I had a similar sense of wonder and excitement. I knew I wanted to spend my life with this man and I regularly feared the day I might lose him.  Since early childhood I have been inclined to fear the death of a loved one with a fair bit of anxiety.  I wasn’t sure how I could cope with such a fate.  Scott was, and is, the man of my dreams, love of my life, everything I ever hoped for in a life partner.

When we were brand-new newlyweds we moved from the safe suburbs of Spokane to the big unknown suburbs of Los Angeles for me to attend graduate school and begin our lives as a Mr. and Mrs.  We often enjoyed late night movies in those early years, even on mid-week work nights, which feels like a big luxury now that we are homebound by early evening for young children’s bedtimes.  In the land of entertainment, we could hit a movie as late as 1:00 a.m., streets still buzzing with energy and life. If ever there was a theme of death in a movie, which it seemed there always was at least some reference, I would end the night in tears.  I would bury my face in Scott’s chest sobbing, lamenting death altogether, upset with God whom I very much loved and believed in but just could not grasp why this horrible thing would be our inevitable state.  Cuddling into bed with no kids between us, I would testify to my undying love for him and plead with God to never take this man away from me. I feared I wouldn’t survive such a loss.

Then came the babies.  Oh those amazing, precious, fragile babies!  Rumor was they could suddenly stop breathing for no apparent reason in the middle of the night as they peacefully slept. I still sneak in their rooms before I retire to bed each night to listen to my children breath, give them a kiss and whisper one more I love you into their dreams.  Well beyond any risk of SIDS, it gives me peace to hear their breath and kiss their warm skin so full of life.  I sleep better. The thought of losing these little ones was unthinkable.

My third pregnancy was especially blissful.  With three behind me, the first ended in an early miscarriage, I knew by now it would be exhausting so I took my maternity leave 3 months into gestation.  I wanted to relish this time and nurture my baby’s growth as much as possible in this full season of life as a family.  With some scares in my previous pregnancy that put me on bed-rest I intentionally took a step back to give this baby life.  I felt calm, at ease, nothing to fear or worry about this time around.  My little guy in there was an energetic delight, similar to my 2 year old son, the boys were already full of energy in-utero.  I’d had one calm, serene, girl when my 2nd born little guy turned life upside down with his first top-of-his-lungs “vroom-vroom!”  It warmed my heart to think of my boys taking over the world, destroying it, and figuring out how to put it all back together again.  Inseparable buddies they were destined to be.

Six days after my due date I went in for my routine obstetric exam and to discuss birth options.  I always went overdue, 4 days with my daughter, 11 with my son.  My nurse and OB, who knew me well by now after nearly 5 years of routine appointments, and I laughed about that.  This was my normal.  Everything looked good that day but it was routine for an over due mom to have a non-stress test that checked the baby’s heart rate and my contractions, just to be safe. It was just a routine.

We were the last appointment of the day and it was starting to snow in Seattle.  Scott needed to return some books to his University library before it closed for Christmas break.  He asked how I felt about him running this errand and with absolute certainty gave him my blessing that this would be a great use of his time while I sat with monitors on my belly for the standard 20 minute check.

“No big deal” I said so casually, so naively confident, “Go get that done and we’ll grab a coffee together afterwards.”

Looking forward to our mini-date – precious stolen time together with two little ones at home – I waddled my way alone down the hall into my own curtain enclosed chamber to join the room full of expectant parents.  I had gone through this routine many times in my last pregnancy with my now 2 year old son.  I had early bleeding and contractions that warned us he might come too soon, so often I was sent for these tests to make sure he was okay and wouldn’t come early.  He was born 11 days late, at a hefty 9 pound 12 ounces.  It had all worked out in the end.

I huffed my big pregnant body onto the hospital bed with mint green and white polka dot sheets. The non-stress test nurse was a tall, serious faced woman with long dark hair who didn’t have much of the usual joy and excitement of the other OB nurses I’d come to know at the office.  Without much more than a simple hello, she got to business, slathering me with goo and hooking up the monitors, roaming around for the best spot to pick up Fisher’s signs of life.  She kept roaming.  And roaming, and roaming.  And roaming.