Tag Archives: Longing

Prayers for the Camellia House

Remember the house with the camellia tree that felt like a dream come true? The seemingly obvious gift from God that fell through? You can read about it here. Well, it came back to us. The people who’d won it out from under us pulled out and in a blink we were given the choice to resubmit our offer before anyone else might. We took a few moments to pray and to talk about it over long distance phone calls, tried to remember what consoled us when we lost it before and considered saying no based on our good coping then. But we’d spent a few furious months living in a rental house with little room to host and no yard (which has been a huge blessing in itself) searching for houses and land, looking at properties, studying house plans, asking big questions of ourselves and of friends, always choosing the “new in the last 1 day” search choice each night on the real estate site. We’d made a few decisions, we’d narrowed in on our area and we’d arrived at our hoped for criteria which was space: space to host, and space to play, inside and out.

With a large family in the making and being a pastor’s family where we already love to host, we envisioned groups of people lingering over meals at our dining room table, kids running in the backyard with space for a worthwhile game of tag, tables and blankets on the lawn for the annual salmon feed we used to have at the end of the summer (the last one brought nearly 100 to our home, and that was pre-pastor days). In the house plans I conjured up for each new property that had potential, I always included a daylight basement that served no other purpose than to be a place where our local Young Life ministry could hold club. I worked for years as a Young Life team leader and in every area finding a good place to hold club was always a challenge. It would be such a gift to have this space to offer, where water balloons and whip cream and whatever other amazingly fun things they can think up to communicate God’s love for kids in fun and loving ways could happen freely. With bedrooms upstairs and our living space a main floor, why not let the foundation of the house be completely for ministry?

So, despite the work this house requires, we still see incredible value and said yes. Seeing potential in something and bringing that out is something I love to do! We are excited but trying to stay realistic. The short sale process is so complicated it is hard to even understand. It might not be ours no matter what we do because of the messy situation and multiple liens of the current owners that have to be resolved. We have yet to do an inspection and the cost to make it livable might be beyond our means. There are so many more reasons to rationally think it might not come together. But still we hope, and we pray every day. And for what it is worth (which is everything) we’d love you to pray too. We know there are far more important things in life to pray for, and that God’s plan will unfold and the purposes He has for us will happen regardless, but we also know God cares to hear our hopes and dreams and so we will share them as I am sharing this with you. Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to join us for a salmon bbq next fall…that would come after the work party this spring:)

Will keep you posted…


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.”


Keeping Vigil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sleep my child
and peace attend thee,
all through the night.
Guardian angels God will send thee
all through the night.
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber steeping,
I my loving vigil keeping,
all through the night.”

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

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

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

12:02 “Home. Bed. Goodnight.”

12:03 “Oh good, I love you!”

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


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.


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, seeing all the pitying faces of the last week flashing in my mind saying “you are so busy, how do you do it all?”

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.

But who knows. Maybe it was a poor choice on my part, or a moment of stress or strain on my body that I could have prevented. I will wrack my brain again and again, and promise to do better next time. Maybe I’ll start saving for that chaise lounge.

Dr. B explained what to expect over the next few days, 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 in the ultrasound, but mainly to make sure all the tissue had passed and I was out of danger of hemorrhaging.

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 sport 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 girls smiled and hugged their same size new friend. I looked around me as if my life was standing still and praised God I’d been given so much to be grateful for.

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

And I remember what He has done for me.


Presence of Place

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

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

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

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

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


Unrest

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does anyone else live tormented by these questions?

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

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

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

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

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

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


Instant Gratification

I took a nap this morning, as my baby napped. After a late night and a few wakings, I was exhausted. I have a whole day ahead of me, and a hand full of to-do’s, household, ministry and professional and I laid there waking slowly from one of those deep long dream filled naps, wondering if I would even have the energy to rise again for the day ahead. My big kids are off to ski with their dad and it is just me and the babe. I have loved these slow Saturdays with her. The house more quiet than any other day, she is the sole focus of my attention, we get to play on her level, and her nap times become sweet indulgent down time for me. But today there are a few things to get done before church tomorrow and my big 7 year old girl’s birthday party.

I believe God has put things on my heart to do, I recognize His voice, His call, and I feel moved to act. I am motivated, excited, moved, willing, believing this purposeful thing will honor God, whether it be in how I live out my day to day life as a mom, wife or friend, or if it is tackling the Mount Everest of accomplishments. If it is God’s voice, and/or I am clear that what is placed on my heart will honor God, I am in and I will obey. And not to overspiritualize everything, I know too there are simply things I just want to do that sound fun or interesting or exciting to me. I have learned over and over again that here too God smiles at the freedom He has given me to choose these ways of spending my time, much as I fret over discerning His call and His will. These become His will (read The Will of God as a Way of Life by Gerald Sittser, my mentor and friend who taught and counseled me through this years ago and yet I still need to learn these lessons).

In addition to my day to day willingness to honor and obey him with my spirit and character in love of Him and others, the honoring of Him with my mind and body in willingess to act and do can sometimes leave me feeling perplexed, shall I say stressed? After the initial excited, purposeful “yes” I begin to think of the how and wonder about the when. The problem lies in the timeline. I don’t doubt God’s voice or purpose, I begin to doubt my abilities and wonder why I say yes to anything at all. I feel like I need to hurry, get it done now, to the best of my ability and be efficient and work hard to be faithful. There is an essence of truth to these concepts in being faithful, but mostly they are false. If I look at the bible many of the purposes God places on people’s lives take years, lifetimes. How unexciting eh? How wonderful though. God is honored. The people are ok.

Our world is increasingly instant. It used to be that I had some time before people knew if I got an e-mail or not. My lengthy average rate of return was understandable then. I had little ones, no time to sit in front of a computer. This made sense. That nagging feeling of having e-mails to get back to somewhat reminded me of the constant pressure felt in getting a college education. Always something ahead to do, no time to sit and read anything for fun, there were books to read and papers to write. I always loved my breaks and indulged heavily in “light” reading, as in I would read my favorite magazine, like Real Simple or Martha Stewart or Country Living, cover to cover, every word, from the editors letter to the last meaningless ads in the end. I love doing that! It is the ultimate down time indulgence. Such a relished time-waster, so much more fun than TV to me.

Now people know there is a good chance I see my e-mails near to when they come to me on my phone, that goofy gadget that I swear my children must think is my 3rd robotic eyeball. I kind of hate that (I can hear my mockingbird children’s voices in my head saying “we don’t say hate in our house mama”). It is almost always near, though I do manage to forget it upstairs or in my purse sometimes (I need to to that more often actually) but with the loud sounds of children in my midst or quiet ones whom I do not want to disturb, I rarely answer it at a moment’s notice. I do check it often though, for efficiency sake right? Get that e-mail read and out of the way and on to processing what I can DO about it. I still don’t get back very efficiently, takes too long to type on my phone anyway, but it is in my head all the time, and I kind of hate that too. I digress.

The point is the instantaneousness of the world, and how counterintuitive that is for how God would work in our lives, how he has historically worked in others lives. In fact, in stories like Abraham and Sarah (Genesis Chapters 15 to 21), the length of time He takes to respond after making His promises very clear that Abraham would father many is aggravatingly laughable to them. I often feel like that, complain to God that I want things to happen now and pine away wondering why they are not. He does not place instant gratification on His call.

Thank you God, now please help me to do the same; to slow down, take things step by step, rest when I need to, even when I don’t need to but after a good 6 days or so of hard work have passed.

Now off to read my fun book about slowing down and relishing mom-life before my baby wakes up and we get to play.


Communion

photograph by Mauro Guerrero


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

clinging to life
no longer

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

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

so heartbreakingly loved

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

Do this
in remembrance of me

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