Tag Archives: Life as mom

Worth

I have long been in dedicated pursuit of supporting the absolute and inherent value of all people, and therefore against any belief, system, person or group that might rob, shame or harm anyone in their pursuit of life. Unfortunately, it is the people I dearly love and call my own who have caused some most ravaging damage and have ultimately stunted the potential of women to seek to live out their call to serve God.

I have spent most of my adult years in ministry, one of those was in an official pastoral role at a church, the rest in outreach ministries where I was treated with love as valuable human being. In that one year I gained more insight than I ever hope to see in a lifetime into the misinterpretation of scripture that fosters prejudice, discrimination, shaming, outright abuse and subtle most aggravating mistreatment of women. Really it happened in one specific moment, in a gathering of equals from among the greater community in my same position, all men incidentally, with whom I so naively thought might treat me as one-and-the-same in pursuit of our common goal of ministering to others. I was not so inconspicuously “put in my place,” made to feel small, shamed, as if I had somehow sinned against the God I so dearly loved in wanting so purely to communicate His love for others. It was a moment you may have missed if you were sitting at that table with me and my cohorts, a nearly slight of hand trick that left me confused in the moment, stunned a bit at the nonsense of it all and not until the appropriate response time had passed did I feel the blow to my gut, my soul. I wanted to cry and scream and yell and throw a big fit and say “you are wrong and you are bad for doing what you did” but that would have been too emotional of me, so instead I did was I was told to do. I was speechless, quiet.  This is called a double-bind, an impossible scenario where any course of action will make the situation worse.  It was once believed that a double bind is what caused schizophrenia, it is so crazy-making.  I was left feeling small and ashamed against my own better judgment, am I somehow bad for wanting to serve God in the ways He has given me to serve?

I hope to God my daughters never, ever have to wonder the same. Because you see, if we are somehow bad in God’s eyes for doing His most fundamental work, how can we ever seek to live fully into any other call that is placed upon our hearts that might have any impact in this world where men also live? Is our highest call truly to be subservient rather than wholehearted servants of God?

It still brings a lump to my throat and makes me want to scream to remember that day. And the moment was so small, nothing, so little compared to what so many other women have faced and have been stunted by, not to mention so many others in the world who still face a myriad of injustices. But it hurt, and it scarred me, and it changed me. You may as well cut off my legs if you are to tell me I cannot serve my God in a ministry role. I will be rendered nearly as handicapped if not more. And yet, I still walk with a subtle limp that would take a caring and insightful eye to see, fearful of condemnation, scared to cause conflict, because you see I do not want my life to be about conflict, but reconciliation.  My single greatest calling in this season of life is to encourage relational wholeness that might reflect and allow people to know the love of the One who created them. I dare not admit to be the “f” word, as I do not want to be a ranting anything. I prefer to describe myself as egalitarian, as it is all people I care to value. Nor do I want to open myself up to be shamefully put in my place by the people I call my family. It is hard to stay forever quiet though and try so hard to let my actions only speak to what I believe, and there are current issues I may speak to when I have enough courage, maybe, but for now I just want to share what others have said, who inspired me to write this, and to say thank you to the people at Fuller Seminary who with full reverence and intelligent exegesis of scripture, have long taught all people to wholeheartedly live out what God has created them to do, from pulpit, or pew.

Even more though, I am grateful and amazed that our creative God could so beautifully interweave the truth of his love for all people within words written long before it was anywhere near socially acceptable to be speaking of women as teachers, ministers, prophets, apostles, equals, let alone leaders in any form or fashion. That to me is what is so astounding. If any scripture could be seen in glowing awe of the truth it reveals, it is those that so clearly go against culture and yet remain as if God himself inspired those words and not man.

And I believe He did.

Here are two short articles of inspiration, a sample of what I learned at Fuller after that awful day that gave me hope and conviction for the many times since I have seen or experienced this unfortunate injustice.

Scot McKnight Speaks on Women in Ministry

Women in Ministry: Consistency and Balance

My senior year at Whitworth University I had the honor of traveling across the United States for a month studying prejudice and discrimination, with fellow students and Dr. James Waller .  One of the lessons that most stands out to me is more poetically said by the singer-songwriter Jewel who wrote the lyric “Where there’s a man who has no voice, there I shall go singing.” This resonates with my soul as I know it those who are not directly impacted by injustice can often have a more powerful voice on behalf of those who are. I believe it is my purpose to speak on behalf of those who aren’t heard where I might impact positive change. Those too, are other blog posts to be written. For now, I want to say thank you to these men who give voice on behalf of women who’s voices are not always heard, especially to the late Dr. David M. Scholer, (you can read about him by clicking on his name) my professor of “Women the Church and The Bible” at Fuller Theological Seminary. He did a good work with his life.


National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month

A recent e-mail to a friend was timed well with this month of national awareness for remembrance. Here are some brief thoughts two years and 10 months after the loss of my full-term son.

“It is so thoughtful of you to ask of Fisher. I think of him often, I’d say he is always under the surface of everything else in life these days. It is no longer a constant grief, but I miss him so much and the hope I had for his life with us, in a way that still really hurts. Reminders are still everywhere but I have gotten more used to moving through with whatever is before me and not giving full thought to them. Grieving is hard work and I am just not always up for it. The other night the song we played at his memorial service, Held, came on, as it does at times. Sometimes I will listen half heartedly with one ear even with all the background noise of my kids and feel a tolerable ache. Sometimes I change the station because it is too hard to really let myself feel the full measure of sadness in the everyday moments of my current life. There are mixed emotions there because I’ve been enjoying feeling less sadness, but how do I literally tune out the big reminders of the baby I’d give anything to have back? That feels kind of odd, but also self preserving. It is nice to feel generally more often happy than sad and sometimes I just want to hold onto that.

It was late at night when the song came on and just Scott and me in the car. I could hear it playing quietly under the sound of Scott talking and my heart opened up and my ear strained to hear every word. When he was quiet I turned it up and just looked out the window at the dark, bright starred night. I had the chance to really listen and think about my baby and it hurt to remember his face, and what his body felt like in my arms, but it felt really good to really remember. To think of how amazing my baby is, all my children are, and to not have this life with him, and the chance to love him in person is really the hardest part still. I know now that will never go away. I am so lucky to have my kids. Their precious lives make me so aware of what I am missing without him here. It was nice to have that moment of full quiet thinking. I was more contemplative than tearful, but as I write this tonight, by myself in the pure silence of a sleeping house, I can cry in a way I haven’t in a long time and that feels good. I was a raging river for a while, then the aquifer – an easily tapped flood flowing just under the surface, and now I am a steady stream through a life filled valley building up into pools that spill out on occasion.

I read an article recently about programs developed to support parents who have lost a stillborn or newborn in their grief. One woman in the article named Sara Weaver-Lundberg signs her e-mails with “The mention of my child’s name might make me cry, not mentioning my child’s name will surely break my heart.” I love that. Thank you for continuing to mention his name.”


Born to Bless – Part I


We have celebrated a handful of birthdays recently of family and friends. My husband and I were born a year and a day apart. The year “birth-aversary” of our church (which in many ways was not so different than having a child) happened to fall on my husband’s birthday and my children just celebrated their half-birthdays.

Birthdays are a big deal in our house. We like to throw parties, make things festive, prepare good foods to share, and have a reason to celebrate the people we love so much. Everyone gets into it as we all buzz around preparing for family and friends and what always proves to be a joyful few hours out of our ordinary lives. I consider our celebrations a spiritual discipline (after reading Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline a favorite book of all time, that in the end encourages us to find reasons to celebrate as the bible does), an exercise joy when so much of life and spiritual pursuits can be so serious. The kids love to hang streamers, make the nearly famous fruit skewers that go in the flower urn to look like fireworks, and are usually busy preparing hand made presents for all the guests of their own design.

My husband and I especially love to host and as each one is scurrying to put finishing touches on things we laugh and say “I am glad I married you because I am sure all this craziness would drive many people nuts.” And afterwards, as we do the work all over again to clean up, sweeping the floors, gathering garbage, passing dishes along to be dried in the dimly lit kitchen of the now-silent house, we relish all the highlights,

“wasn’t that fun?”
“who did you get a chance to talk to?”
“wasn’t it great to see so and so?”
“how are they doing?”
“oh and weren’t all the kids having such a great time?”
“did you see this child do this, and that child do that?”

and we go to bed happy, full, blessed.

One way we show our love at birthday time is gifts. I love to give gifts, I love to get gifts. There are just a handfull of people in my life with whom I still exchange gifts and it is just a fun little love language that I speak and understand. My kids of course love gifts too (what child doesn’t) and I have to say I don’t mind a reason to indulge them on these special days of the year.

This is all well and good, and yet, there is a piece of me that struggles with the idea of gifts, doesn’t want to be materialistic or wasteful, and wonders if we really are ever doing enough to help the world with what we have been given? As faithful as we have always been in giving more than our 10% to our church and a variety of other ministry organizations, give of our time to ministries ourselves and for missions, that scene in Schindler’s List when Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is realizing he could have given his watch, his coat, his every possession to save one more life always pierces me.

Will I get to the end of my life, my cause, God’s cause for my life and regret what I held back from those in need in order to gift my already blessed family and friends? I wonder. Jesus also blessed the woman who poured expensive oil on his feet. Though others saw it as a waste he told them her gift was good and timely. I hope the gifts I give to the blessed with discernment and love in my heart is seen as good in His eyes.

To counterbalance the me-focused gift wish list of birthdays (that I recognize I fully encourage by enjoying the giving), I had an epiphany for half-birthdays. We also want our kids to be generous and giving and thoughtful of the needs of others (so far they really are – I think God hardwires us that way, and it is our job as parents to encourage it). Last year we started this new tradition with my then 4 and 6 year olds on their half birthdays. On this day we would celebrate them with affirmation and favorite foods, but no gifts (so don’t ask). Instead this would be their day to gift the world. The kids’ earn allowance money and give some to the church, we participate as a family in saving up for special campaigns, regularly donate our time and money to causes we feel will honor God in a way our kids know about, but I wanted to instill in them the value that they can be mindful of what God places on their hearts and respond in a way that makes the world a better place. They get to decide what they think God would want them to, what matters to them and then we as a family help them carry it out.

Last year my 4 year old son wanted to make a treat for the hardworking staff at our seasonal business. My 6 year old daughter wanted to donate her gently used things to people in need. This year it was cupcakes for the summer staff (made from scratch with strawberries we’d picked) and granola bars in our car to give to homeless or hungry people we see on the streets. The kids come up with the vision and make all the decisions about how to carry it out. They always ask what the signs say that people hold on the streets and they want to do something to help, so we went to Costco and they picked out the biggest package of granola bars they could find so our family has something to give. We end the day with a favorite dinner and one by one we go around the table and tell the half-birthday person what we love about them. Much as I love giving gifts and having parties, half-birthdays rival the real deal for making some pretty meaningful memories.

Every year we will do this and my hope as they continue to grow in wisdom and maturity that their sense of vision for what God places on their hearts to help a hurting and broken world will be carried out with passion and purpose throughout the year – that they will know not only that they are loved and treasured by God and in their family, but that they are able to make the world a better place. That is better than any gift I can ever give them that would bring any meaning to their lives.

I have to mention a children’s book that speaks to this idea. Books are just a great way to encourage values as well. A narrative often goes a lot further than any explanation. Miss Rumphias by Barbara Cooney is a great book for young kids that tells about this idea of being intentional about discovering your gift for making the world a better place.

If you have creative ways of instilling values in your children I’d love to hear them!


These Days

Fall fell upon us
The bigs are back in school
You and me
have big things to do
in our pj’s and disheveled hair
pull things out of drawers
off shelves
test the theory of gravity
over and over again
with big grins and thrills of delight
over sound and unexpected consequence
big things
like climb all those stairs
and come back down
five pudgy fingers
clasped tight around one
dance to lullabies
and mama’s favorite rock tunes
cry with you in my arms
as we spin around the room
to love songs
written just for you and me
I get to look into your eyes more
these days
with just us two
see you think
nuances of emotions
wonderment and frustration abound
I get to see you, know you, calm you, help you,
love you
(what a gift
how do I deserve this?)
words forming
in emphatic syllables of garbled sound
increasing in decibels with big body gestures
as I guess
ball? bear? hair? there?
we are figuring out our language
you and me
dancing to rhythms
of this precious life
thankful beyond measure
for the everyday normal
of nothing too special
that exceeds anything
special,
so special.
The world, my God,
is here now.


Streams of Sunlight

The rains did come. I woke in the middle of the night with the most horrible migraine and needed to take the medication that I hate to have to take if I had any hope of caring for my children the next day. (sidenote: I don’t like to take medication, I’d rather remedy the source. I could give you the laundry list of natural and western medicine assessments and remedies I have pursued over the last 15 years, but why bore you? They go 3 generations back and magically go away with menopause, something to look forward to I guess)

So it was a slow morning while I waited for my pain to dissipate. But we played inside and had a special guest to tea until us Seatteites couldn’t stand it any longer and headed outside to play in the drizzle. We played my 5 year old son’s favorite games, which is anything with a ball or a frisbee, but a round of baseball and soccer kept us smiling until the drizzle turned downpour. We were so soaked and cold that a warm bath and cozy nap fixed us up well. By afternoon the clouds were clearing and the sun was making it’s way out. I ended the day talking and laughing, and reading Anne of Green Gables with my 7 year old daughter until way past her bedtime.

By morning the brightness and warmth had returned. I smiled at seeing my daughter cozied up in the windowseat reading Pippi Longstocking for most of the morning.
I laughed as I patiently taught my determined 20 month old to blow her own bubbles until she no longer put the wand to her lips to eat soap. I reveled in childhood wonder as my son caught small eels and crabs on the beach in his ocean water filled bucket just as I had done with little frogs at my childhood lake cabin.

By midday we said goodbye to the last of our summertime guests at our Salmon Fishing Lodge and the work of ending began. At dinner we talked about our favorite memories from the summer. I cut potatoes and one slice looked like a heart. It resembled the luck I feel when I find a rare heart-shaped rock on the beach for my kitchen window collection. Through small everyday moments of life, the problems and frustrations that were clouding me faded. They are not gone, and at the risk of appearing fickle as the weather, I must admit that the sun shone brighter than the issues of the day. I’d say they were “God-sightings” if I were encouraging my children to see blessings in their day. But I believe God can be seen and is in all things, even in our trials. It is I that rise and fall with the tides of circumstance, much as I seek to be steadfast and strong for Him. The real strength is always in Him. But I do appreciate the sun, the light moments in life, and I will soak it in and say “thanks be to God” for each bit of it.


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.


Hoping for Italy

Tuscany

I heard of the trip years before, three or four maybe, when I had gifted my husband, the writer-in-residence of the relationship, with a class studying narrative non-fiction. He’s written poems and lyrics, a screenplay, a book, an inspiring blog, sermons to change your life, and short stories that earned him English Department Scholar for his graduating class at Whitworth. He’d been to 6 continents by his late twenties and has plans to visit Alaska and Greenland as final frontiers, until the next destination calls. A writer and traveler, perceptive and proactive, I’ve loved him and wanted to live the adventures of life with him from our first encounter.

But that is him, and much as I could talk on and on about the great things he’s done and how wonderful he is, this is about my adventures though, lest I fall habitually into my most accustomed role as supporter and encourager of all that is around me, and not so much what is within.

It feels crazy to think of taking this trip at this time. My baby daughter broke her arm this week after bracing herself from a fall. We were up multiple nights caring for her in her pain, in the ER and as she transitioned to life with a cast. My husband’s busy season of work begins next week. I have so many end-of-the-year-events for my kids that I am having trouble keeping track. We are still living amongst boxes and unpacked bags in our new home. What kind of wife and mom am I to leave my family at such a time? Let alone the expense! As a church, and as a family, we are currently in a season of seeking to live more simply in order to raise money for wells to bring water to people in need in Africa. We will not draw from that donation, but still I struggle with Christian guilt around things like this. (Luckily I am married to my pastor who understands grace and celebration of life far better than I and continues to bless me with reminders)

We live a full, FULL, life with our 7 year, 5 year and 17 month old children, careers, ministries, volunteer work and activities. I am a binge and purge sleeper, rare that I get myself to bed at a decent hour, but relish it when I can luxuriate in it. What mom with any passion in addition to motherhood does get regular sleep? It is at night when all the ideas of my days that go untapped unleash. I get a few paragraphs into a blog, (but rarely have time or bravery to edit and post), pen a journal entry to one of my children capturing an epiphany of their personality, significant moment from their day or a prayer for their life, or daze out over a few hundred e-mails I must deal with at some point, so why not now? feeling that fleeting wink of a high like I have actually checked something of off my ever long to-do list. Life as a mom makes the hours in the margins bulge.

May I make myself perfectly clear though, I adore my life as a mom. I embraced motherhood like I did swimming, diving confidently, deep and excitedly into waters that felt more like home to my immersed body than dry land ever had. I have relished it, found purpose for my in life in it, and in seasons, have sought to maintain my identity as an individual with interests before and beyond early it. It is easy for these pieces of myself to feel lost, like all those little mismatched socks in the ever-bearing pile of laundry. The demands of mothering are constant, require more of me than I sometimes have to give and are wrought with rewards beyond measure.

Following my recent miscarriage (two and half years after the devastation of our stillborn son) Scott secretly inquired to see if there was still room in the writing class to Montalcino, coming to the realization that recent circumstances in our lives, including the miscarriage, could make the trip a possibility. I felt a call to write a few years ago and have sought to follow that as time and life circumstances have allowed. One of those pursuits was a writing class this fall in Seattle where I had learned of the Italy class and had kept the flyer for the trip on my bulletin board ever since, even brought it with us on our recent move to our new home. Scott and I spent our honeymoon in Italy, a whole week exploring the Tuscany and had particularly enjoyed the small hill town of Montalcino known for their Brunello red wine, the most reputable in the country. I remember reading in Anne Lamott’s book Operating Instructions about her life as a new mom that she had been a food critic at the time. How wonderful, I thought, to eat amazing food and be able to write about it. I thank God for every meal and have had experiences with food like that felt divine. I held hope that one day it would all come together to go and learn how to form gratitude for delicious food into inspired words. One day, when I was not pregnant or nursing. One day when we had a little extra money set aside. One day when we could use some airline miles for tickets and the kids could be cared for while Scott worked and I could leave my work and obligations for a bit and, and, and…one day.

There was one spot left, this would be one day. This is why I love my husband. Not because he is regularly so extravagant (he is typically wisely frugal) but because he believes in pursuing life experiences. He makes things happen.

When I met Scott at a Young Life fundraising event we were both nervous young college students speaking to a room full of respectable donors about our love for God and our love for kids and our dedication to ministry. We were each immediately smitten in hearing the other’s passion and priorities. I was volunteering at various stations throughout the evening and when Scott coincidentally kept showing up in the vicinity I gradually realized this was on purpose and gained the courage to notice and respond. Our first conversation is etched in my mind. A piece of that was discovering he was studying American travel literature and after graduation planned to travel to every state in the lower 48 states of the U.S. and write a book about it. He spoke with such assurance, humility and purpose that I knew he meant it; rare for a young college graduate, or anyone I’d ever met for that matter, to have such a vision and follow it. I knew him for 3 life bonding months before he left. Much as my heart ached to see him go, I knew he must in order to be the man he was created to be, and the man I would always adore.

In addition to securing my place in the class, Scott booked airline tickets scraping together some hidden air miles and made arrangements for the care of our kids; things I needed to come together well in order to feel any peace about going. He kept telling me it was so important for our kids to see me follow my dreams, to offset the mom-guilt he knows plagues me whenever I feel like I am being self-indulgent, much as I agreed with him. I preach self-care, but still it is hard to feel worthy of such an experience. It was also very scary to think of being apart from my family when life so recently reminded me once again how unpredictable our days can be; both a motivator to pursue my passions while I can and to never leave the vicinity of my loved ones.

So I am off to Italy, to follow a dream and a call, learn a new craft, relish some time of creativity and solitude, and meet new friends from all over the country. I will ache for the voices and hundreds of moments of physical contact I have with my husband and little ones who hug and climb and cling and fall and need me throughout the day, as I need them.

This is how we live – longing for togetherness and connection even as we seek to live out our unique purposes and passions as individuals. The beauty of it all is how we dance, in and out of sync, sometimes solo and adrift moving to the rhythms we alone perceive and sometimes in embrace aware of the joy and shelter we share in and create as we move. We sing and we cheer and we smile and we delight when we gather in our living room with music turned loud passing baby and big kids up and down and around for swings and for dips and stealing a kiss or a twirl, remind each other of why we seek so purposefully to capture and cherish this beautiful life we have been given.


Choices

There is so much I want to write, so many stories half written, or logged in my brain, that I want to bring life to, that must be told. But alas I have children who wake early and am a mama who needs her sleep to be a good mama, especially when I am flying solo as a mama.

My husband left early for a business trip this morning. He’s a fisherman, so his standards for early are EARLY, because all potential breaks at first light.

I am not someone who particularly likes to get up early, but I can rally when I need to and can appreciate the possibility of a brand new day in a quiet house. This morning though I snuck out of bed as my husband showered to make him breakfast before he left. Not that he needs me to make him breakfast, he is perfectly capable, and in fact, we have things fairly well divided that I take the night shifts and he hits the morning time with the little ones. It was so early, and everyone had gotten to bed so late after an energy packed vacation that I figured I would creep back into bed afterwards and get a few more hours in before the kids would wake up.

You know what happens next.

At 5:15 the shower goes off and in the background I hear my baby squawking, ready for someone to come get her and give her some breakfast too. Plan B, feed her a quick meal, I have already cooked most of it off, and then slide her back into bed while I got my last delectable minutes of rest. We kissed papa goodbye, said our I love you’s and I cooled some of the hot meal for her to eat.

You know what happens next.

Pitter pat, drawers shut, and two puffy eyed, sunkissed faces make their way down the stairs and climb up onto chairs saying “I’m hungry.” With a hearty breakfast warm and waiting I dish everyone up. Then drinks, and lunch preparations, cleaning baby droppings off the floor, then the baby’s face, a hairdo for a big kid and a spelling test, morning prayers and memorizing verses and checking over home work and wiping noses and bottoms and overseeing teeth brushing and squeezing in a moment to make my cup of tea and everything that is so routine and mundane about our everyday lives.

And I am on the brink of tears I am so grateful to be doing it all. As the morning scurry hit full tide, my heart was swelling with gratitude to have these amazing children to love and care for and wake up early for and get up tirelessly for through the nights and not have time to write or create or finish nearly anything personal or professional in any way that I would hope to for this season of time, oh another 20 years or so.

I am so driven and so full of creative energy that it would be all too Pollyanna of me to say I can find all that to be fulfilled in parenting. It absolutely cannot, for me. But, and I’ll add on a great big although

THAT

IS

OKAY!

There were much more profound moments in my day – in my professional life, in some playtime with my son, coaching my daughter’s soccer practice and the conversation about friendship that followed, in the mistakes I made, where weaknesses are and the epiphanies and graces – things that make for a better story than this, but, as is my life, I have run out of time. My eyes are straining to stay open, my head is groggy and I can’t remember if I shut my daughter’s window so I must pull myself out of bed to check, gives me a reason to give one more round of kisses and tuck stray limbs into soft blankets and say soft prayers.

The choice I have here is to work at something creative and life-giving on another level, or go to sleep and be ready to love on and care for my babies all over again with the energy I need. I will choose sleep, praying for late sleepers tomorrow:)


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.