Tag Archives: Meaning

Weaning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leaving for Honduras

Agros Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Different Lament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Real Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bonding

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I respond to you 1,278 times in a day

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

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

I am here,

for you

your little eyes look into me,

nearly expressionless, with so much thinking going on

we recognize each other,

as if it’s been years,

in these first few days.

we study each other’s faces,

memorizing what is forever changing

until you’re all worn out from the looking

and your body melts into mine

and then your eyes close again

and your breathing lengthens

as does mine

we are becoming familiar with one another

though we’ve had nine months growing together

separate now, we are attaching

nuances of your personality are expressed in your needs

and I’m falling in love with everything

though you have nothing of reciprocity to offer

no smiles, no words to say thanks

my gratitude and hope so big I could burst

for a life just beginning

your breathing is all I need to keep going

Thrive little one!

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

I will seek to give it to you,

learn the language of your cries,

speak sweet words you’ll only understand in tones

you can trust me, sweet one

throughout long days and tiresome nights

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

your whole life long

this and so much more

I am blessed to give

because you

You, my love

are the magnum opus

the great work

the masterpiece of this life

I have co-created an eternal soul

and how divine it is to be a witness and worker

in these first days of life (and forevermore)

when you are so fragile, and fully alive

hoping for decades of days

20,000 or more

with you my love


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.


Sacraments

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

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

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

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

That God would love us so much.

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


New Things Coming

It has been a long time since I have written.  Ironically enough, it was one of my New Year’s Resolutions to write more often.  I’d give you my goal, but then I would really be accountable and don’t ever want this to feel obligatory.  I have so much in my head and on my heart to share though, but also on that list of resolutions was spending a special moment each day with each of my kids, really seeing and loving them, and my husband, being just a little more intentional and attuned.  Also, getting more sleep, which makes that previous goal of mine so much more fun and me so much more likable.  So, as with e-mail and most other forms of communication that either gets done while I ignore my family, or compromises my need for sleep, my blog too has fallen by the wayside.  But the season has been good – only wish I had had time to write more about it.

 

I am slowing down and being more intentional in many other areas of life as well, and this being a piece of life that has given me such a meaningful and creative outlet, I consider it a piece of my self-care and a pursuit of personal interest I value.  So, as I prepare to launch in soon with some new ideas I have brewing for my blog, I thought I’d share a poem that was very moving to me.  I just finished presenting at a marriage retreat with my husband called “Cherish” and am preparing to encourage moms to express their heartfelt love and gratitude to their partners’ and children on Valentine’s Day, it is on my heart that we consider each day how we can live truly treasuring the ones we love, that have been given to us as such a gift, if only for a season.  Relish every moment.  Enjoy…

 

In Blackwater Woods
Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
~ Mary Oliver ~

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!