Tag Archives: gratitude

Weaning

Ten years ago this past month I began nursing my first born baby girl, and this exact month a decade later I weaned my last baby boy.  The beginning was an awkward beautiful rite of passage to motherhood and the end an emotional compilation of natural closure and necessity.  At 17 months, my baby is completely nourished by a healthy diet of solid foods and less interested in nursing.  I needed to prepare my body a few days in advance for our service trip to Honduras with malaria medication that was not okay for nursing. I left it up to him in those last few days as he was already growing less and less interested.  I was letting this natural process unfold and not offering what I knew was so good for him, unasked – a lesson I know I will come back to over and over throughout the years.

With his little “milk” fist pump sign language, he tugged at my heart and I would willingly respond.  It was emotional for me.  My husband would send me up to the rocker that we splurged on with our first, I knew out of both his sense of practicality and to honor sentiment – to get every last bit of worth out of our most expensive new-parent purchase and for me to be able to have a special moment where I first held and soothed and fed all of our babies.

With 4 children and the smart phone era, nursing has been a fairly distractible time of practicality and efficiency.  If a kid, or three, are near, there is always someone asking something of me even as I sit bound to my babe.  Or, I have had the chance to get caught up on an e-mail or a social media hit.  About 6 months in, it dawned on me how much my nursing life had changed over in a decade.  I had begun my nursing life bound to sit.  I prayed, read or just gazed at my baby in a quiet nursery for what seemed like half of my waking (and sleeping) hours.  It was soothing and sweet, quiet, sometimes lonely, time for me to think and look and smell and see my sweet baby.  It made me sad to think of my last baby looking up at a face that wasn’t gazing back at him, and for myself to not be relishing this precious time.  I knew all too quickly, my babe-in-arms days would be on the go with the boundless energy of a toddler taking on the world, too busy experimenting to be held quiet and still.  Oh, it’s already happening –  drawers are being emptied, bookshelves cleared, little feet pitter-patting to the next exploration – and my heart just hurts over the change, always hurting for what is going away and expanding for what is to come.

I put away my phone those many months ago while I was nursing, and I sequestered myself to cozy quiet(er) places in order to choose presence, and it was worth every minute.  I memorized his eyes, the gray-blue becoming brown, eyelashes unfurling, the wisps of hair growing fluffier, and I kissed his sweet baby toes a thousand times.  We touched each others faces, his small hands memorizing me and my large fingers tracing tiny features.  I remember when my first-born discovered my eyelashes and she would ever-so-gently take her little finger and brush it back and forth across each set.  My second had a thing for hair, still does.  As I’d nurse him he would splay his fingers wide and draw his hand back and forth through long cool strands.  Even now at age 8, when we are cozy on the couch or cuddling before bed he’ll say “can I touch your hair mama?” and he’ll gently stroke his hands through as he is visibly soothed by the sensation.  And my third, her thing was ears.  If you knew her as a baby you are smiling now, because she probably played with yours too!  As I’d cozy her in to nurse, her little finger and thumb would instinctively go to my earlobe and she’d gently rub the soft skin endlessly.  I miss these moments like mad.

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I took this photo 3 days after the birth of my last baby, after a decade of burgeoning belly shots filled with hope and expectation.  I was sad to see my belly so quickly diminishing.  A strange thing to miss, I know, but it meant so much more than bothersome baby-fat to me at the time.  It represented a womb that would never be full again.  Much as I am intentional about that choice to be done with 4 kids at home, it isn’t without grief.  My postpartum belly left me in shock after my first.  I remember the big soft jiggly belly that came home from the hospital with me and thinking, “hmmm, now I don’t remember anyone telling me about THIS!  What the heck? When does THIS go away?”  By the 5th, I was extremely sad to see it going.

My kids are all here now, or there in heaven, and we are all done.  Well, we think.  But we’ve decided and are so far on the track of preventing any more.  A friend recently sought advice for her 40th birthday and after a few brainstormed trips and triumphs for a good celebration, one said “I had a baby my 40th year. That’s one way to celebrate.”  And it’s the one idea that made my heart skip a beat, “Now that sounds fun!” I thought. Truly.

But I am done.  All done.  Four was the hope and four is our limit and we are stretched to capacity all the time. (Oh, but it’s not so bad really – what’s one more? we say.)  Friends who began when we did and ended earlier are out on family adventures together – ski trips and un-baby-friendly hikes and such.  That looks fun too, I think.  Our oldest are nearing pre-teendom, are they getting what they need from us?  Can we really be there for them when there are still diapers to change and choking hazards to constantly, constantly scan for?  Will they ever get all they ever need from us?  Of course not, and I know better to think they should.  But still, my big huge aching love for each of them is vast and immeasurable and I just wish sometimes I has a clone of them for each day they’ve lived.  I cannot fathom I will never again see my first born’s first dance hip hopping back and forth to mother goose songs on her little CD player (which of course she was so brilliant to figure out on her own at age 2).  Never again will my first little guy snuggle in my arms, head-to-feet between my elbows.  Not any more will my spunky 3rd child say “hold you me?” with arms spread wide now that she knows to say it “correctly.”  And not ever again will I nourish my baby from my body, giving life and sustenance, comfort, bonding, immunity, health, closeness and connection in the very closest way, ever, again.  This feels hard.  But this feels right.  And in some moments feels good.

Time marches forward and I dream of the day I can pursue a Ph.D. or publish a book, take ALL of my kids skiing, or walking, and know all will be safe without a hand from me.  But I pray they will always reach back to hold this hand far beyond when they will need it to stand.  I pray we will have woven our hearts together similar to the miraculous ways God knit them together in my womb.  This will take work on our part to see and know them as they need to be seen and known.  I will do my best at that commission and consider it my greatest work.

I strive for meaning and purpose in my life and faith, ask God regularly what He has for me to do in this world and who He wants me to be.  I know I am meant to be a mother, above all else.  I work at my career with a full sense of calling, but the work of my womb has been my magnum opus.  The work my body did nearly without need for the mind and will I so intentionally put to every other task of my life, has been the most beautiful work I can behold.  To have created and carried these eternal souls.  What a gift.

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Leaving for Honduras

Agros Fisher

Five years ago, in the days after the loss of our baby boy Fisher, we began our partnership with Agros.  While I labored to deliver my full term son who’d lost his heartbeat, I was extremely thirsty.  I was unable to drink water because I’d chosen an epidural to numb the physical pain of labor and could only have ice chips.  I was profoundly grateful for those ice chips, and for the hope of unlimited water to come.  When the reality of his death would be with us, I would have water to drink, to quench me through the unbearable pain of losing my baby. When circumstances are searingly painful, the elements of daily life things that bring comfort are rendered less mundane, seen for what they are, God’s generous undeserved miracles and graces.

Undeserved, because as I labored in thirst I thought of what it would be like to be laboring to give birth, to give birth to death even, to be in pain and wanting only a simple drink of water for some relief and have no access to good clean water.  My thirst was temporary, and I knew that, and it was the hope of relief that comforted me.  Who was I?  Who was I to be born into privilege, birthing in the comfort and safety of this nice hospital room, in a comfortable bed, where limitless water would be waiting for me, would quench me, clean me, clean my precious baby’s body in a mere ritual after birth, baptizing the body his soul had already departed.

The funeral was being planned.  Dear friends guided me through a remembrance ceremony that I could still barely comprehend was happening, and some asked, how can we give?  In lieu of flowers, what can we do?  Because everyone wants to do something to make something feel better that’s impossible to better.  I get that.  I wanted that too.  Water.  I remembered my thirst, my Fisher, how his life was meant to reflect the biblical message of becoming a Fisher of people, how women in other places were birthing without good water, and grieving without good water and I wanted my baby’s life to bring that hope to people.

So our dear friend Emily, who works with Agros, made that happen.  She set up the process to bring water to a village in Honduras through the generosity of our loved ones.  A few months later we became full financial partners with Agros.  Alongside a group of wonderful families with young kids who wanted to make a difference in the world, we began supporting the mission of helping people break the cycles of poverty and live a sustainable life, with the vision of not just giving, but of knowing the families we were supporting.

Today we leave for our first visit.  We go with our two oldest kids and a group of wonderful families and Emily.  We get to go and be with the people we have prayed for and loved from afar for all these 5 years.  As my son would have been growing into his boyhood, these people have been growing crops and growing hopes and growing out of a life without the basic human comforts that every person deserves.

I leave with a lump in my throat, for the babies I leave at home, praying for their safety and ours (please join me in that) and for the baby’s life I will remember again in the faces of people who’s lives have been impacted by a life that was hoped for.  There is danger in this country, corruption, crime, hard stories, pain and so much poverty.  These stories are in every country, closer to home than we know, but Honduras is a place to hold up in our collective prayers for change.  Agros has a vision for those suffering the most, and here we go.

All things, slipping through our hands, hoped for.  Only by God’s graces do we have these miracles of the lives I do get to have and hold, of the chance to be with people whom God loves as dearly as I love my baby in heaven, of a drink of water.  This is His good work, and who are we to be His hands, His womb, His water in a broken beautiful world?  God be with us.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1


A Different Lament

It seems it is gaining in popularity these days to complain about how hard it is to have kids.  And I get it.  It is hard.  Really hard.  Half of my half-written blog posts (because I never have time to finish them with all these kids) are about how hard it is.  But I am kind of getting tired of yet another big lament that describes the borderline abusive “real thoughts” of the struggling parent –  it is really starting to get to me.

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Don’t get me wrong, I am all for honesty and, if you know me well, I am not one to be peachy-keen all the time about life.  I can complain with the best of them and I think it is important to have the ability to vent when we need to.  But you see, that’s something I don’t always want to do.  In fact, I think the harder thing is to feel the freedom to share our gratitude or a word of praise about our kids.  It would be bragging right?  Or at least that is my fear, so I don’t go there often enough – it’s always a little easier, for me at least, to connect over complaints.  But how refreshing would it be to speak about the other million moments in the day that aren’t so hard?  That are in fact so beautiful and meaningful that they truly take your breath away.  The moments that keep us going and remind us why we took on this crazy endeavor to care for and raise completely dependent, irrational, unpredictable human beings.  The moments where we well-up with tears of joy that do not in fact have to be downplayed by postpartum hormones.  Just pure full-hearted love.  I think I could use some of that to keep me going on this parenting journey as well.

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My husband’s family has a way of getting together and telling all the good stories from when everyone was a kid.  I was struck by this when we were first dating because it was a unique phenomenon to me.  There’s the polyester suit story when he was 3.  The “I know” story when he was playing piano with his aunt.  The famous football game against Central.  All good stories told with love and pride and delighting in who he was then that led to who he is now.  I love these stories.  Even though I have heard them a few dozen times myself, it is how they are told that gets to me.  My husband was loved, still is, and these stories leave no doubt.

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Couldn’t we all use a few more of our good stories floating around?  Wouldn’t that be a neat way for our kids to be known?  It would be kind of like turning the sun like a flashlight on them, just to shine some sweet warmth in their direction for the world to partake.  How neat to be so brave as to say there are things we adore about them, whether they were there to hear it or not, and not just find fault or complain.  Would it be so bad to speak more often to the gratitude we have for the precious gift of their lives and the unique ways God has made them to be in this world?  I think it could be pretty sweet – good for them and a perspective shift for me.

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A friend and mentor of mine, Cheryle, was talking about her son once and referring to him as “my Austin. I can’t believe my Austin is going off to college.” She has 5 kids and I was so struck by how adoring she sounded of her middle son that I tentatively had to ask “oh..is he your…favorite?”

“Oh, no, of-course-not!” she said with a laugh “But he is such a neat kid…” and she went on to unabashedly tell me more about what made him special and why she was going to miss him.  I just loved that.  I basked in the glow of her love for him, for all of her kids over the course of our friendship, and it has absolutely influenced the way I parent my own.

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I get that parenting it hard.  Let’s be honest about that for sure.  I am just wondering if there is room, safety, and enough grace to speak to the good parts too, more often?  I know I personally need to do a better job of taking notice some days and would love to feel the freedom to speak to it, as a form of discipline almost, in the day-to-day chit chat with friends.  I am not calling for a shallow brag-fest, or the social media shout out, but a deep-hearted, soul-baring gratitude between friends that, while inherently acknowledging how difficult it is, admits there is also something to be said for all that is so very good.


Real Life

butterflies-cute-jar-junel-nature-Favim.com-142556I fell to sleep at 2:00 a.m. last night after being pretty shaken up by the recent death of a dear mentor from my past, Don Rhymer, who encouraged me as a Young Life staff person in my newlywed days.  Married for 29 years and father to 3 really neat kids, he was truly an example of a man who lived a good life of strong faith and great relationships. He was one of those people I said goodbye to in California and hoped to spend time with again in future days.  He was a good man.  You can read his story here http://radiatedon.com. (warning, he has a great sense of humor, you’ll laugh through tears at his writing)

Eyes swollen from crying, I was woken again just before 4:00 as my 2 year old wanted me to come cuddle with her.  My baby chimed in wanting to be nursed, so he and I crawled into bed with her and I tried to sleep while she tossed and turned and he suckled. At 4:25, she started to choke and spew throw-up into the air, all over me and the baby and I leapt into action, babe still attached, calling to my husband for back-up.  Just one of many crazy days of parenting.

Still, it is a pretty great life I have.  I don’t say that as a trite response to hardship, nor to brag, nor because it is perfect.  It is far from perfect.  I am sleep deprived and a little spacey at best, impatient and crabby at my worst.  I take a shower an average of a few times a week, and I am usually wearing a shirt with day old spit-up (I know, gross huh?).  I figure with mountains of laundry, why make more?  We have some business concerns that feel pretty daunting.  My marriage, sayeth the marriage and family therapist, is not at it’s best.  We are in that post-baby, well post stressful-summer –  heck let’s just be real honest and say post-becoming-a-pastor’s-family (there should be a term for that) – season of busy life where we are looking across at the person we most cherish and adore and thinking “Hey, you look familiar? Do I know you? We should hang out sometime.”  Who has any time?

Especially those crazy folk like us who keep having all these kids.  And speaking of kids, on a regular basis we worry about them, that one or more of our children is doomed for jail, the psych-ward or the streets. Obviously I exaggerate, but you know what I mean parents out there.  I could go on with a myriad of worries, imperfections, faults and failures, but what I am overwhelmed with right now is what a great life I have.  I don’t say that without the awareness that there are those who suffer, really truly suffer from very hard things, and my concerns really are very small in comparison.  But probably because my life is so far from perfect, there are divine moments where huge gratitude over something very small overtakes me, and it keeps me going.

It happened when I was holding my fussing baby today, doing what I could to help him fall to sleep.  My two year old was just lulled to napping down the hall.  My baby’s cries softened with each of my bounces.  His sweet face burying into the space between my arm and ribcage to try and block out the world. Eyes roll back, then closing, and the big sigh of sleep breathing taking over.  Isn’t naptime the best? I am standing in the quiet of my room and glance over at the big comfy white chair near the window, where I rarely have time to sit these days, and then over to the row of books beside it.  The one on the end is my favorite, Great With Child by Debra Rienstra.  On the cover a glowing belly bulges from under a soft shirt.  Her posture is laid back, relaxed, contemplative in it’s pose. My heart warms at the idea of sitting in that chair for a few moments to read it – once both my little ones are napping, just before the big kids get home from school, when the laundry is done, the meals are cooked, the clothes mended, the children listened to, played with, kissed and held and loved, and well, probably never, or at least maybe not for 5 years or so.  It would be pure indulgence!

And it is just the possibility of that moment that fills me with gratitude.  Because really I could sit and read, and sometimes I do, when everyone is all tucked in for the night and I am feeling rebellious enough to leave some of the work of all this for tomorrow.  It is not often, but that’s okay, because this will not always be and I try hard to remember what I know so well.  That nearly 9 year old down the hall used to be this small and I strain to remember the details to answer her request for stories of when she was little.  I wish we could go visit those long days of being a first time mom, when the road ahead seemed so long and full of unknowns.  I know these days pass by quickly and my ache to capture them is akin to gathering the scent of summer in a glass jar to carry me through winter.  Impossible.  I had two full journals and a detailed baby book written to my daughter by the time she turned one.  This little guy’s baby book stares blankly at me by my bedside table.  How do I start, when I know it will end?  I take pictures, thousands of them, and they sit frozen on my phone and computer.  What is it now, 20 cumulative years of photo memory books for each year of my children’s lives to complete?  Huh, maybe I should let that one go.  But that kind of makes my heart hurt and my lungs get tight.  They will grow up too fast, and cliche beyond cliches, I know I will miss these precious days.

And so I look with a big heart of hope at that favorite book of mine, knowing one day I will have time to read it again, and if the day is not today, it is for damn good reason. Because the endless mundane and meaningless laundry means my kids have lived a good day and will be clothed tomorrow.  The meals that come together without too much creativity these days, means their bodies are nourished to grow and be healthy.  The listening and the mending and the kissing of owies and the reading of stories and the cleaning up throw-up and the work work work of it all is so very worth the opportunity to nurture these most precious souls for a season. When my house is empty and quiet for years to come, creating those photo books won’t mean I am ignoring a little voice or risking more sleep deprivation.  I am not sure I will be able to bear it then, taking in all that has passed, so for today, I try to breath deep into my imperfect life and take in the scent of a very good season.

Don, it would be a gift to know you were hanging out with my Fisher in heaven.  He would be almost four now and I am sure he’d get a kick out of being your buddy.  I wish all my kids could have met you.


Bonding

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I respond to you 1,278 times in a day

See you, feed you, bounce you, burp you, swaddle you, change you, bathe you,

hold you, soothe you, sway you, rock you, kiss you, kiss you, kiss you 382 times a day

I am here,

for you

your little eyes look into me,

nearly expressionless, with so much thinking going on

we recognize each other,

as if it’s been years,

in these first few days.

we study each other’s faces,

memorizing what is forever changing

until you’re all worn out from the looking

and your body melts into mine

and then your eyes close again

and your breathing lengthens

as does mine

we are becoming familiar with one another

though we’ve had nine months growing together

separate now, we are attaching

nuances of your personality are expressed in your needs

and I’m falling in love with everything

though you have nothing of reciprocity to offer

no smiles, no words to say thanks

my gratitude and hope so big I could burst

for a life just beginning

your breathing is all I need to keep going

Thrive little one!

Eat, cry, sleep, grow, scream for what you need

I will seek to give it to you,

learn the language of your cries,

speak sweet words you’ll only understand in tones

you can trust me, sweet one

throughout long days and tiresome nights

I will care for you, give to you, know you, love you,

your whole life long

this and so much more

I am blessed to give

because you

You, my love

are the magnum opus

the great work

the masterpiece of this life

I have co-created an eternal soul

and how divine it is to be a witness and worker

in these first days of life (and forevermore)

when you are so fragile, and fully alive

hoping for decades of days

20,000 or more

with you my love


Here He Comes…a letter to loved ones.

We are at the hospital now and it looks like we will have our baby boy sometime today.

My prayer request last night was that I would feel ready to have this baby. I have just relished my pregnancies. Even though there have been fearful moments and strong memories of our loss of Fisher, I haven’t felt too much anxiety about the birth itself, and that has been a blessing.  But I just haven’t felt quite ready. With this being our last and after a very full summer, I was feeling like it had gone by too fast.  On top of all that, I have wondered if I was really ready for the work ahead of 4 kids!  (I am the first to admit this 4 kid hope of ours is a bit crazy!)

Last night was such a gift though! I went to bed feeling so filled up with all the encouraging words, blessings and prayers for our baby.  I felt so loved and commissioned to have this little guy, and reminded of all the hopes we have had in choosing to have him.  When I got up to use the bathroom early this morning Scott asked how I was doing and I said “I am ready to have this baby now.”

And then my water broke. I laughed because the timing felt just right. I am feeling so strong and at peace today.

So we are at Swedish now. It was slow moving, not many regular contractions at first, ironically, after all these weeks of trying to slow them down, but they are painful in the labor sort of way now.  It took a while to get a positive test result for the amniotic fluid (I did NOT pee my pants!) but it finally showed up and I was officially admitted into “Spa Swedish” as Jen called it last night.  My nurse Sarah is really great and on with me through the night and Dr. Pray from my OB office is on call until morning as well, and I feel like I am in good hands with her.  My OB Dr. Bohmke, who delivered Avery, Fisher and Harper, is coming home from New York tonight so I am sure I will see her tomorrow when she’s back in the office.  I’ve had my first favorite meal delivered and even took a little nap.  Scott and I are enjoying these last “waiting hours” together, listening to some great worship music, taking in the sunny Seattle view of this gorgeous day and the pretty flowers Amy brought by (thank you!) and can’t believe the time is here.  The big kids will join us when things get more regular, probably sometime late in the night.

Thank you so much for your love, prayers, friendship and support.  I cannot tell you how it has strengthened me for this day and for the days ahead.
In awe and hopeful expectation,
Heather

Emotional Roller Coaster

I am too exhausted for a properly written blog post, but I need to write.

I had an emotional roller coaster day today.  I started the day wondering if the normal elements of my day would be my “last” before the baby comes – beginning with my shower…my drive to school with the kids…my meals – before everything changes.  Then some sweet “nesting” time with my littlest running “last” errands that needed to happen before baby comes – crib sheets, carseat, hangers, snacks for the hospital – just a few last to-do’s.  It brought me back to my first pregnancy, the hopeful anticipation lacking any taste of fear, to be gathering these treasures.  I was so prepared then.  So prepared.

Afternoon NST results: healthy heartbeat, lots of contractions, but I measured smaller than last week = ultrasound ordered for tomorrow or next day.  Three years ago when I weighed a pound less than the previous week, I was confused and a little disappointed.  I hadn’t crossed a threshold I’d been waiting to cross with my weight.  It was the first sign my baby Fisher had died, I wonder if I knew in that moment?  I remember that one pound was such a bummer.  Today it is a centimeter.

But it isn’t really death I am afraid of right now, it is the magnitude of this life that is about to come. (But who am I kidding, of course I fear death – I guess it’s better said that I am not anticipating it.)

With all my contractions and activity, I was hoping I was in labor today so this would all be over and he would be safe in my arms.  Yet I don’t want my last pregnancy to be over yet. I adore being pregnant and it has gone by too fast.  And I am just not ready.

Are we ever really ready?  I’ve thought I was in the past.  I am a planner and like to be prepared for what is coming next in life.  I have done this childbirth thing enough to know I am not prepared, that we never can be fully prepared, there are too many unknowns. I am feeling unprepared on so many levels.

And yet, it all feels like the proverbial absence from riding a bike.  It is second nature by now for me to respond instinctively to a babies’ needs.  I am beyond excited to hold and care for my baby boy in every way, smell his sweet smell, snuggle his soft skin, feed and soothe him with that telltale bounce as my next permanent hip accessory.  I cannot wait to know him and begin a lifetime of discovery of who he will become.  I love thinking about that.

I am also overwhelmed at the thought of it.  With 3 kids already, how will I have the energy?  I am exhausted, irritable, grateful, terrified, in awe, and feeling ill-prepared – all wrapped in one.

I finally packed my hospital bag, halfway, and remembered my baby needed clothes too.  Revelation. Obvious subconscious avoidance going on there.  So I finally sorted through the baby boy clothes I last had to put away before they ever were worn.  Tears washed over these clothes unpacking them as fiercely as they had come when I had last put them away.  Huge waves of grief overcame me – so many memories of my first son who wore so many of them and the second who never got to.  Some were still new, just for him.

Lots of contractions still, and they are getting painful.  Is it a weary 37 weeks of burgeoning at the end of a long day, or was today my day of “lasts”?

I hope I am in labor tonight.  God help me if I am.


Little Things, Never to Forget

I want to memorize the length between the lower curve of your plump bun and the back of your knee.  It can’t be more than 3 1/2 inches and then another to your pudgy bare foot.  One little lovable chunk of you that will too soon be long and lean like your sister’s.  Your voice is elf-like, high pitched, sing-song, curious and amazed at most things you speak to these days.  Unless it’s a command to “ho-d you me” “cuddew me” or a sweet whispered “wove you mama.”  Then your voice is deep and a bit raspy, possibly a glimpse of you at 12 or 24.  Or it’s a scream that accompanies a temper tantrum, full of life, fierce for that one thing you are wanting to have or do with your little strong body that I can barely redirect anymore with any sort of ease.  You have more passion and persistence than I have yet to witness in a child and I thank God you are my 4th, 3rd to make it to age 2, because I have far more experience, patience and tolerance for this age of big frustrations for you.  I get you though, I see your heart and know how badly you want to live by it and I adore that about you.  I pray regularly for the ability to encourage your full fledged self and help you harness your wildness in ways that will serve you well in life.  I can be exasperated and at the end of my rope with you and in the very same moment look into your tear filled fierce full brown eyes and be so overwhelmed with love for this full of life child I get to call mine.  You’re 2 1/2- delightfully, frustratingly, preciously, lovingly 2 1/2 and I don’t ever want to forget any bit or piece of this time with you.

“Mama, I feel like I haven’t had much time with just you and me lately.  Will you read my Pippi Longstocking book with me?” came the invitation from my girl who reads long chapter books within a few hours, has completed the Laura Ingalls Wilder series a few times over now and would choose to cozy up with a book over kicking a ball outside with her little brother any day.  Feeling lucky you would ask, I left the chore of the moment, looked past the end of day messes to be tackled, and joined you on the couch where it was quiet, away from a little brother and sister who were upstairs getting ready for bed with Papa, a rare brief moment with just you.  I pulled a blanket over us and your head leaned into mine as I started to read where you left off on page 103.  When a sound or my trailing tired thoughts cause me to pause, you put a finger to the word I stopped on and I am tempted to ask if you want to be the one to continue.  But I can tell you are 3 again, in preschool when you were the last kid to want to leave the reading circle while your teacher read the story of the day.  You’re 5, in kindergarten refusing to try and learn to read because it’s far more enjoyable to listen to the story than struggle to sound out syllables.  Now you’re 8 and it has come so fast, consuming more literature on your own than we ever have together in our sacred nightly ritual of bedtime stories before prayers and cuddles.  There is so much within your mind and world that I am not privy to any longer and I know that will only increase, naturally, as it should, but still I feel a bit left out not knowing so much of your thoughts and stories no matter how much I try to be intentional and ask.  So I am feeling nothing less than lucky to be invited into your most favorite past time, a world nearly as magical as this moment with you.

You’re 6 my son, and growing so quickly that your naturally athletic, amazingly coordinated body is a bit clumsier than usual.  You bump into corners and misjudge stairs and your tears are the same as when you were 4, so sad and so hurt.  I go to comfort you, hold you awkwardly on my 8 months pregnant belly and kiss your hurt places.  How much longer will I get to do that and it will help?  I appeal to your growing intellect as well with empathic words about your body changing and therefore you naturally get awkward for a while.  I am dealing with that too, I say smiling with my big belly, it’s not easy at first when our bodies grow but then we get used to them again.  You smile back at me and run off again full speed.  Later you take a break from your full-of-energy play and join me in the kitchen on a stool next to the counter where I am doing dishes.

“Mama, is it hard work being a mama by yourself when you have a baby in your belly?”  This is the season when your papa works long days, or is gone away for weeks at a time and you are ever the perceptive one. I have been tired, but conscientious about taking time for fun and for rest and building a rhythm that honors all of our growing bodies.

“Sometimes it is, but it is my favorite work I get to do,” I respond emphatically. I put down the dish I am scrubbing and turn to you perched on the barstool across the counter from me “Why do you ask?” I say, fearing I may have made you feel like a burden in some way.

You look out the window, and off into your mind say, “I am just thinking about the kind of dad I want to be someday.”   After a few moments you turn back to me “like making breakfasts like papa does when he’s home and you need some extra sleep.  I want to do things like that.”

Really, at six you’re thinking about this?  My perceptive, empathic child.

I get a big hug from you around my big belly, and a knowing look of love and gratitude for the baby brother you’ve been longing for all these years too, and off you go again outside to your adventures.

You would be 3 1/2 my sweet boy.  I have no pictures of these days and years I would have had with you.  No memories to try to cherish and hold onto.  Just 9 months in my belly and that one day, when you lay peaceful and breathless in my arms, when I could hardly breath.  I would give anything to have you now, even to have that one day when I got to hold and memorize you, terrible and exquisite as that day was.  My heart still aches beyond measure to know you my love.

Who would you be now?  Quiet and kind-hearted as your big sister?  Energetic and empathic as your big brother?  Wild and delightful as your little sister?  I can only daydream of who you would be, knowing full well you’d be something all your own entirely.  Oh and that hurts, so deeply, to not know and to wonder.  To have conceived and formed and grown you to fullness, to empty my womb when emptying is meant to bring life, only to tell you goodbye, still, always, leaves me hurting and longing.

 

My love is so big and full for you, even as I grasp to remember the details of you, details that are nothing to the joy it would be to hold you breathing in my arms, run and play a game of chase with you, read stories that delight your mind and talk with you about who you dream to become.  Our family is big and growing, but always incomplete without you.  I yearn for heaven to know you.

Kiss my son for me dear Jesus, play and run and talk and be with him, delight in him and cherish him, and please tell him he is loved beyond measure, each and every day until I am able to say it with you.

Thank you, for each of them my Lord.


Holding On: After All These Years, and For Many More to Come

Fifteen years ago a college boy who was out of my league in every way asked me out on a date.  He was cute, smart, successful, could tame a wild room full of Young Life kids with his funny stories and the promise of God’s overwhelming love for them, and he was so nice.  That’s what drew me to him.  His kindness.  His big smile.  The way he talked to the frizzy haired lunch lady that everyone else just gave their food card to without a word, about her son’s upcoming basketball game, showed me he was different in the way he related to people and I was enamored with that, with him.

I still am.  Thirteen years of marriage later, 4 births, one death, 4 cities, 6 homes, 3 remodels, blossomed careers, callings, ministries, travels, heartaches, intimacy, arguments, feeling like soul mates often and days when we must work to be friends, we have had many ups and downs in what is still the early years of a life-long relationship.  There is a lot of glue between us, from emotion to experience and I cannot begin to imagine my life with anyone but him, nor would I ever want it, ever.  Even amidst the day to day life of raising 3 kids, adult responsibilities, passion-filled career lives and ministries, and so much more that could cause us to pass one another by in an average day, I find myself awestruck that I get to share it all with this amazing man.  I feel lucky to know him.  It astounds me that I get to be his wife.

So, with a full throttle remodel in process, 3 busy kids’ lives and hearts to keep up with, 2 soccer teams to coach, barely enough time to talk about the functional aspects of our lives let alone hopes and dreams and intimacy building things, we planned a little getaway to celebrate an insignificant number of married years, that is of extreme significance to us every single day.

“It is the worst possible time to leave” we always say “which is why it is the best time.”  We need this.

We had some airline miles that were going to expire, a summer business that will soon take over our lives, a baby on the way that will cut-short our chances to travel and so many more reasons why we had to get away now, and it has been so good.

Cape Cod it is.  We came here in a blink 7 years ago and I have wanted to return ever since to the fishing towns reminiscent of our summer life.  With history and charm and antiques that are older than this century and houses that are even older, I love the legacies, stories and lifestyle of a the opposite coast of our young Northwest harbor town.  Even the simple differences in house design, (save me from the craftsman-style please! It is cape-cod that I love!) the drift wood gray shingles on every home, with lots of white trim, ocean colors inside and out, has me oohing and ahhing over this quaint respite.  Fishing and lobster boats out our windows, the promise of good seafood for dinner, a sandy beach to enjoy alone just before tourists descend en mass, it feels like a little piece of heaven to just take it all in with my husband and best friend.  Nothing more to accomplish this day than a scenic drive, beach walk and good conversation, uninterrupted.  It is all and everything we need.

Refreshed – Rejuvenated – holding hands with no-one swinging between them, we will hold these moments with us as we return to life as usual, a very good life – Reminded – that there is so much that is so good to hold onto between us.


Sacraments

Over the last year I have had the privilege of serving communion alongside my pastor husband.  Each time I do I am overwhelmed and grateful for the experience.  To give you a bit of background that doesn’t tell the whole story, I can rarely receive communion without tears streaming down my face.  I mean, not just a little teary-eyed, but streaming.  God’s grace has always cut to the core of my being that finds it hard to believe I can be so well loved.  I always feel a bit sorry for the servers, they must think something is really wrong with me.  I fear they might usher me aside to a private triage prayer room for me to be able to pull it together.  I want to whisper, “I’m okay, don’t worry, just a little overwhelmed by God’s love right now, I will be fine.” But I know I wouldn’t be able to choke out the words.

I can’t quite explain all of what is going on for me in those moments.  A sense of absolute brokenness – awareness of my own depravity, loss, heartache and imperfection – swirls with awareness of love so profound – pure, undeserved, all-encompassing – that I can hardly bear it.  To receive this physical reminder of God’s love and provision is always profound and I have no doubt of God’s divine presence when receiving the sacraments.

But to serve is another thing altogether.  If I already struggle with the question of “who am I to receive such gifts of grace?” all the more I wonder, “who am I to present them?”  To speak “this is His body, broken for you” or “this is His blood, poured our for you” and hear my husband speak the counter promise beside me is such an honor.  Words more weighty than my wedding vows, that also clenched my throat tight as I spoke them with as much conviction as I could muster through tears of overwhelming gratitude.  Looking each person in the eye, I do my best to speak the weight of these words into each soul.

But God forbid I know a bit of their story, or see heartache or gratitude in their eyes, because then the clenched throat comes and my eyes fill.  It happened today when a fellow mom of young ones dipped her bread in the cup I held strong for her, then her husband who has also known a lifetime of heartache, a new person to our church I’d bonded with only the week before, my long time mentor mom from MOPS who was there with me in during the loss of my baby boy, then her husband who fed everyone at the funeral making sure my plate was full when I was famished.  The newly married couple who are navigating loss and change, and the ones celebrating a decade but fighting to feel close.  The mother of a healthy 2nd trimester baby who’d had too many early miscarriages to have still had hope, and the beautiful single soul who longs to find their life partner.  And the stories in the hearts of the faces that tell me there’s so much more than the smile they return to me.  Who am I, so broken, to bear witness to this sacred moment of receiving of God’s gift of sustenance?

That God would love us so much.

May you have strength for your journey knowing the body broken and the blood poured out for you.