Tag Archives: Longing

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


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.


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.


A Time to Treasure

We are on a little working Spring Break trip to our summer business home in Canada.  The weather is cold, the cabin is cozy and we are breathing a sigh of relief as we relax in for a few days, despite the ongoing to-do’s.  It is just a bit easier getting things done when we are outside of our everyday lives, and nice to balance it out with some down time with our kids and each other.  It has been a busy season with three careers between us, a hand full of volunteer roles and a major home remodel in the works.  We are thankful to be able to spend so much time with our kids, but the reality is that we can be multi-taskers with an electronic device almost always within reach – a necessity I rather loathe and often in fact ignore (which you know if you have ever waited for me to respond to an email).  Or we can be side by side at night catching up on work when “normal people” (do those exist?) settle in for some TV or reading time to relax before bed.  I am always trying to get better at watching TV, a funny goal some might think, but it would do me some good.

So we needed some family time, and some down time.  For this morning, my indulgence on this remote little island is to have a moment to write while my husband takes the kids for a hike on the north shore.  With a warm cup of tea in hand, a fire crackling, an expansive view of the ocean out my window and a silent house, I am breathing easier and feeling quite content.  There has been some news I have been wanting to share and this is the week.  The fourteenth week.  Fourteen has always been my favorite number, and although 12 is said to be the safe time to share, I needed a buffer this time around.  We were so naively expectant last year sharing our pregnancy news so early before our miscarriage, and many of you know of our full term loss of our son 3 years ago.  So this time I really needed to make sure, and sharing too early felt like I might burst the fragile bubble.  But all is well, I am showing, and I am ready to share.

With absolute awe, excitement, a bit of fear, huge hope and more emotion than I can describe, I announce the upcoming arrival of the 5th Sund baby!!  The 4th we hope to bring home to join our family on earth.  We always wanted four!  From our college dating days, when we were unaware of the work of children, we talked excitedly about how great four would be.  We each came from a set of two and loved the idea of a house-full.  So this season feels like the realization of a long-held dream. It has been a windy road, not in the order or spacing we’d tried to plan for…is it ever?  It is hard to explain what it feels like to be culminating my childbearing years.  I am sure I will be writing about that.  Above all, it is a time I hope to treasure.

My last pregnancy, sacred in it’s own right, was a blur of numb coping.  I was still in the early days of grieving and the only way to get through another pregnancy was to not hope too much, nor fear too much, just breath and live each moment only by the strength of God.  In past pregnancies I had kept detailed journals for my babies in the making, writing letters about their unique traits, prayers for health and well-being and my own guidance, and professing my undying love.  It was a whole other layer of loss to have poured words into a life that would never receive them.  It was like I was standing at the edge of a treacherous cliff watching helplessly as my lifeless baby floated away from me, my arms outstretched with his gifts – the journals, the soft clothes, the warm blankets – when all I wanted was him in those futilely full empty arms.

But his time around, and not without reverence for the baby I will always ache for, my joy has returned.  I feel the full measure of life that is within me and the hope for it to come.  I love being pregnant!  I find the whole thing so amazing and am one who feels especially good and healthy, mostly migraine free, while pregnant. I winced at the sight of it for a time and that made me so sad.  I was too aware of all that could go wrong and desperate to warn those blissful faced bellies of their possible torture ahead.  But I am thankful that reaction has passed.  Hopeful expectation has returned, without naiveté of whatever may be, but I know full well God will be with me whatever may be and it is too much fun to miss out on the joy of this last season of expectation.

So with all that in mind, three kids to care for, and all the to-do’s I described above, I don’t want this time to pass in a blink.  I want to cherish it.  I want to be able to remember it.  I want to treasure it.  I would love your ideas for how to do that well – please share them!  I would be so grateful!

I hope you have moments to pause and treasure your season of life too!  Blessings!


Darkness & Light: Where He Abides

01 Winter Song (with Ingrid Michaelson)

Today is a day of joy and pain. It is the unexpected birthday of my baby girl’s planned birth, on the anniversary of my baby boy in heaven’s funeral – this Winter Solstice day of the Darkest Night.

Three years ago on this day I gathered with my husband, living children, family and friends to mourn the loss of my full term son Fisher.  One year later, after two long years of pregnancy, I gave birth to my baby girl, a planned induced birth that was to be on the 20th and lasted into the wee hours of this Solstice morning.  I heard the beautiful cry of life this day where bliss and loss have become good friends.  My babies will meet in heaven one day, all six of them, and there will be laughter to replace all these tears.  There is laughter here too.  Both I embrace.

Too many deaths. Too many thoughts this month, with too little time to write.  Here are a few formed to words…

Lord, I stand with you at the edge of a beautiful life overlooking the valley of the shadow of death.  I rage with you against the horror of it, small and safe beneath your wing. Knowing you are love, that you loved my beloved and that you love me.  Still though I wonder.

I look at you, in love, wondering if maybe you betrayed me somehow by allowing death to take my child.  Were you a willing participant Lord?  Did Satan come to you as with Job, and you said: let it be? Allowed the boy I’d given every ounce of my being to nurture and love for 10 long months to die before his life began? How could you have obliged?  How do I not give you ownership when I honor your hand in everything else?  What was your role in this?

I know you did not point the gun, twist the cord, that took the breath he never breathed.  But you knew. You were there. You are here now.  Your omnipresence often comforting, implicates participation.  It is so hard reconciling death with your love.

Still I stand with you.  Still I trust you.  Even though I do not understand.  Even more now, I know your love and know you conquer death.

If only it was in my lifetime so that I, and so many others, might not have to suffer so.

It is too hard to bear my Lord, so hard, nearly incomprehensible to me, even now.  Only you know the searing pain that radiated throughout my body, that was cried out from the depths of my soul, that left me grasping for my own breath that might sustain my life.  Only you know this Lord.  Only you know me.  Only this brings incomprehensible comfort.

I praise you.  Fearfully and wonderfully, I praise you.


Advent

December begins again.  First advent Sunday celebrated.  This the season of hopeful expectation, when my son was still living, moving, alive, 9 full months of life, of knowing and knitting within my womb, fearfully and wonderfully.

I was waiting for you my son, (still waiting), I was ready…so hopeful…

Three years ago, my perpetual calendar (The Power of Prayer by Richard Foster) shifted to a new theme of prayers, from Healing Prayer to The Prayer of Suffering.  It happened again this past Sunday, the first day of Advent at that.  Everyday now I read a quote about suffering.  This first one, signifying the season my soul senses before the calendar tells, read:

In the Power of Suffering we give to God the various difficulties and trials that we face, asking Him to use them redemptively.  We also voluntarily take into ourselves the griefs and sorrows of others to set them free”

Three years ago, pregnant with expectation, I remember thinking it a bit strange, that quotes about suffering would coincide with the hope of Christmas coming.  I remember thinking specifically how they were the furthest thing from my own joy and hopeful expectation with a baby boy due in only a few more days.  We had a house full of hope, an excited big sister, sweet anticipatory brother, proud, oh so proud papa, and me, just me, his mama.

I’d owned the calendar for nearly 10 years by then, had viewed it through two other winter pregnancies nearing delivery.  Never before had I notice the theme of suffering as odd in timing, nor read each days’ message so dutifully, in case God is preparing me to comfort someone who might be suffering, I remember thinking.  Little did I know whose heart He was preparing.

December hit with dense fog and fear the year he would have been one, belly bulging, with promise of a baby girl this time, if we can ever again hope to believe in what seems to be, again.  Like a hurricane December came year two, the flood of a heavy heart sweeping me back to what was lost and never would be, still.  But a baby, sweet precious baby girl in full-of-life flesh, reminds me of everything that is so good and the magnitude of what was lost.

Oh yes, December.  Here you are again, with howling winds, and icy rains, cold enough for snow, sometimes, cold enough to kill off the abundance conceived in Spring.  Dark, brisk days when a breath can feel like shards of glass cutting through lung tissue and escaping as smoke signals of your own life that goes on as you scream into the deafening dead-end silence against how final it all is, and how crazy that makes you feel that there is nothing you can ever do to bring him back.

December again, and still, it is over.

Still.

He was born still.

Still so much.

So much life, so much laughter, still soft bellies and squishy fingers to kiss, still I am surrounded with more love than I could ever, ever have hoped for.  Still so much to look forward to.  Christmas grows more magical, when 7, 5 and 23 months live here.  There is glow, and glitter to string, giddy expectation of goodness to come.  It always does come.  The goodness was there, always was, and is, and forever more shall be.

In advent, I wait, hopeful, for a child, a son, and a Son.  One whom I will run to and embrace, know his sweet face that I had the blessed chance to kiss and hold for a mere moment.  Forever I will wait and long for that redemptive embrace.  And another One who will embrace me, kiss my face and say, you are mine, and he is mine, redemption is mineMy life your true gift, that makes all this that you love worth hoping for.

The season of hopeful expectation has come – Rejoice!  He who is God is with us!  Again I can say – I. Will. Rejoice!


Little Voices

Her words are forming more intellectual these days.  His is losing the charming accent of unpronounced letters.  The littlest, nearing two, is rambling sounds of increasingly recognizable forms of communication.  This, that is so often the background noise, I notice new.  As if the violin of the practicing symphony suddenly comes forth clear with a melody, then the cello chiming deeper with punctuated profundity, the fluttery high pitches of the flute weaving in and out, up and down so whimsical, on one of our many car rides to everywhere and nowhere at all.   For this moment, only this seems to matter.  It is the music, all of it music, if I am listening.

So often I am not though.  The things I “must do” cloud my mind, clog my ears, and fills the space for sound in my head.

Need to get to those e-mails – so many half conversation waiting for a response.  How many am I forgetting that have slithered too far down on my screen, out of sight out of mind?  Think.  Think.  Oh I used to be so reliable.  Speaking of reliable, so many things I am not getting done.  Must do.  Must do.  What am I really doing with my life?  What is my purpose?  Sorry I ask that God.  I know I am yours.  What have You made me to do?  I love doing this and that, but there’s more, always more that I have no time for.  So many things I am passionate about, so many things can feel purposeful.   More time.  More time.  I long for more, and less, all at once.  Downtime!  That is what I need.  Time to get lost in something creative, a good book, a nap.  Push pause, that is what I will do, I will nap when my baby naps today.  Or maybe write a book chapter!  That would be fun.  But that would be work.  But meaningful, so much more meaningful than the breakfast dishes and crumb laden floor waiting at home for me. Oh and that laundry that is waiting to be put away.  Who am I, to think I can get anything done beyond this?  Who am I created to be?  Dear Lord, who do You want me to be? What do you want me to be about? I want to live that out, I just don’t always know how, or I know too many ways how…eggs, can’t forget to get eggs today.  What else do we need at the grocery store?”  On and on I go.

So much noise in my head.  That practicing symphony of incongruous sounds sometimes sharp and self deprecating, sometimes growing melodic, appearing to go somewhere, until interruption of the next urgent sound breaks through.

“Mama?  Mama?”

“Yes” I say, and I listen.  I can hear this and know infinite worth.

I can hear little voices.  The one who uses big words. The one who likes to tell long stories.  The one whose notes reach such varied heights I could plot them on a music bar for quite the cantata.

Too often, their sounds blend into the noise of my head and I don’t really hear.  Facing forward, always driving, in this moment I can see only the beauty of their sounds, and I know where I am to go.

Melodic, heart piercing sounds that I know so well I sometimes forget to take it all in.  Tomorrow syllables will form words, high pitches will deepen from a fresh shaven face and spelling words will become essays of eloquence.  Where will this time have gone?  Like the vaporous mist that rises in the dawn of these chilly fall days, I hope to capture what I cannot keep.

Knowing I have these voices as they are, only today, fills and breaks my heart.  I will close my eyes, my mind, push pause on the background noise of everything else, and let these melodies fill my soul.


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.