Tag Archives: Rituals

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.


Sleep My Child

My baby has arrived at that wonderful age where all she does is give a few simple signs she is tired and we scoop her up, changed her diaper, possibly her clothes, and she’s off to bed.  She may fuss over her change or cry impatiently for a moment for her pacifier, but once she’s cozied in her soft sleep sack and snuggled into her silky blankets, the ones we slept with to imprint our smell upon before she was born, she’s closing her eyes and blissfully content to drift off to sleep. I swiftly glide out her bedroom door pausing to silently twist into place without a click to shut it tight.

 

On this night when I tucked her into her bed – fed, changed, sleep-sacked and blanketed – I was caught off guard by her fussing and resistance to rest.  As soon as her body touched the mattress, she was twisting over quickly to push herself to standing. She’d cling to the edge of her crib and cry.  I’d return to get her settled just so and begin my tip-toe backwards only a few steps before she’d pop up, eyes peeping across the top edge of her mahogany crib rail and cry out again.

 

As every tuned in parent knows, babies have a variety of cries, most of which we can decipher by some form of trial and error over time.  My baby’s cry tonight was her “I hurt” cry.  She begins with the usual “whaa, whaa” that could be any generic baby track background sound affect, but soon escalates to a high pitched squeal that trails off to a breathy sigh.  It is a heartbreaking attention getter that means something more than uncomfortable, over-tired or fussy.

 

Since all the usual props weren’t soothing to her, and despite two big kids waiting patiently downstairs for bed time stories and their cuddle time, I picked her up and settled into the big cozy rocking chair in the corner of her room.  Her stiff strained body melted over my shoulder and her legs went limp against my belly.  She whimpered a bit but her cries stopped with a full relieved breath.  Curious as to the cause of her pain,  I gently put a finger to her upper gums next to the two razor blade sharp front teeth she’d been wreaking havoc on me with lately and sure enough felt the swollen squishy gum tissue on either side.  I winced at her pain and rocked my baby girl.

 

She’s 13 months tomorrow, a year and then some and alive with activity.  It is rare that I get to snuggle her into my arms for more than a few minutes before she is writhing to get out and explore the world with the fullness of her five senses and pudgy limbs.  Drawers are emptied capriciously, bookshelves disheveled delightfully and then off she scoots at record speeds with that plump diaper covered bum waggling to and fro behind her to experiment with the next law of physics.  So to hold her still and peaceful in my arms felt like a sweet little indulgence that I intended to savor.  She looked up at me for a brief moment, brushed her fingers across my face and then closed her eyes drawing in a deep breath.  I could feel her head become heavy in the crook of my arm and her body sink deeper into the strength of mine holding hers safe and secure.

 

“You’ll be okay my sweet girl.  It will be okay” I whispered and rocked her slowly.

 

And the voice that reverberated in my head was not my own.  As I sought to reassure my girl, in words I know she can’t comprehend, I was reminded of my journey through incomprehensible pain, when I wondered how I would possibly survive, let alone comprehend the voice of God.  As searing as my pain was, razor blade sharp through the fragile tissues of my heart, I felt His loving arms holding me close.  I was reminded of the road I have endured and the days when He whispered these same words into my heart.

 

“You’ll be okay” He said, and I couldn’t fathom how that could be true.

 

“It will be okay”  I whispered again to my girl, knowing it would.

 

What a gift to be able to comfort my baby simply by holding her near to me.  The pain hadn’t stopped, her teeth are still tearing through her fragile flesh, as my baby boy was torn from mine with no breath.  Yet a simple touch was enough to make her feel comforted enough to close her eyes and get the rest her body needs.  What an honor to be God, the great comforter to us all.

 

We watched family movies tonight of the first year of baby pictures for my almost 7 year old daughter and almost 5 year old son.  We delighted in these captured memories, but I cried, hard, partly for the joy of their lives and partly for the baby pictures that are missing. Still raw two years later I am living out the time I thought would not come.  I am okay.  I heal and I hurt and I laugh and I cry, still.  And still God holds me, and rocks me, knowing my cries and soothing me for another day, He whispers “It will be okay.”

 

And I trust Him.

 

There is one lullaby I sing most often to my children that is truer than all the rest for me outside of a pure worship song.  It goes…

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


 


Remembering Days

Last year on this day we spread Fisher’s ashes and spent the day doing special things to remember him as a family.  We gave each other alone time and then reconvened at a park over-looking the water where we are reminded of Fisher.  The kids played and we got to smile and cry  and remember throughout the day.

One day that year, when Barley lost a beloved helium balloon and had started to cry, he soothed himself through is tears saying “now baby Fisher will have a special balloon in heaven.”

I was so touched by his remembering and loving thought towards his baby brother.  That kid has a huge heart!

So that had to be our special thing.  We each picked out a color we wanted to give to Fisher and wrote our special messages to him before launching them up to heaven.

In my time alone, the public beach dark at dusk and empty in winter, I cried out to heaven on the shores where his ashes were spread.  I was full and pregnant with my new baby girl due in a few days, anxious, hopeful, angry, heartbroken and hurting.  So much was the same, but so much was different in our lives.

We came home and watched his memorial service, the video we made of his life  and fell into bed exhausted but full from a meaningful day remembering.

I would love to hear others’ ideas of how they intentionally remember a loved one on their birthday or on the day of their loss.


On With Life

I had a tough time with my most recent birthday, feeling like 35 was more near mid-life if one pays attention to averages than any other age and in all honesty suddenly feeling “old” in many ways.  The physical being the most obvious and lament worthy, the wrinkles, the grays, the aches and the pains are more pronounced than ever.  I started doing tri-athlons this year (isn’t that crazy?) and each time I trained and for days after, I HURT.  I also started playing soccer again.  After 15 years away from team play and 6 plus years of pregnancies, I started up again, and it hurts.  I grew up playing soccer!  I love soccer!  In my mind I thought I’d have so much going for me with all that childhood and adolescent experience behind me.  The reality is, I have to work hard to run fast and when I do I usually pull muscles.  (Luckily it is fun and I play with really nice people that I care to spend time with.)

Beyond the physical, I am taking stock.  A year and a half ago I lost my son at the end of my pregnancy and plunged into the depths of grief that has fundamentally changed how I experience and perceive life.  That is another story for another time, but for this time it influences my “mid-life” birthday in such a way that I feel I must get on with doing the things I hope to do with my life, because it will pass, too fast and there’s too much I want to do.

1. Slow down

Funny this would be my first goal after stating “there’s too much I want to do” but that is why it must be first.  A therapist of mine once said “you like to live a full-life, I see it as a pouring out of your intellect and creativity.”  I loved that!  What a positive spin on my active life.  That was before kids though, and there is no possible way I can pursue all my passions and still be the mom and provide the life for my kids that is nurturing and honoring of them.  I must set those things aside, for a season, in pieces if I am to be the mom I hope to be.  I must slow down, slow us all down (my husband and kids like adventure and experiences too) and make space for us to play, tickle, read, nap, go for walks, have conversations that matter.  If you have practical advice in this area, I would love to hear them.

2. Listen and Respond to God’s voice

So often I wonder what God might have me do in a particular situation or season of time and wish the map was clear before us because I swear I would follow it, free will and all.  As a little girl I prayed every night “Lord, help me to be the girl you’ve created me to be” and still I hope above all that I am living out God’s purposes for my life.  The problem is, He’s not always clear, there isn’t a formula and the magnitude of love He has for us comes in giving us many options.  I am a planner, so I contemplate and I worry, I fret and I weigh all options.  I am a slow decision maker and the concepts of God’s will and our freedom of choice can feel like some mysterious equation that I must work hard to solve.  Lately, though, I have heard God speaking, loud and clear, about some things, and felt Him pointing me in certain directions in more pronounced ways than usual.  My hopes, in this new year of my life, is to create space to listen – through reading and studying my bible, praying and times of silence – and be bold enough to respond, actually doing what God is telling me to do.  That is always scary and exhilarating for a worry wart like me.

3. Pursue Passions

In order to be the mom I want to be, I need to do a few things, outside of mothering, that feed the other areas of life that interest me.  So often inspiration will hit me, and then I look around at the dishes, the laundry, the stack of papers that perpetually piles up in my kitchen, and then a child comes into focus and there is ALWAYS a need to be met and I set that idea aside, swallow it down, hoping for a window of time, later, to pursue it.  When days go by and the time doesn’t come I get discouraged and wonder why I allow myself to hope to pursue these bits of inspiration anyway.  I can’t give up hope.

God laid it on my heart a few years ago to write.   There is so much going on in my head and my heart that I want to get out in a meaningful way.  Looking around, I realized I write all the time; I keep journals for each of my kids highlighting special moments in their lives or simply writing letters to them as they grow up,  I write in a hand full of personal journals, one in response to sermons, one for my life in general, one in my purse in case an idea or thought hits me on the fly and then there is the myriad of post it’s, receipts, random word documents that I jot down and idea or trail of thought before I lose it.  So really, it is something I already do, I want to put purpose and priority to that.  This blog is part of that.

3. Love Like Crazy

Yes, it is a sappy country song I heard the morning of my 35th birthday, but my aha moment was in the lyrics.  In losing my son I felt a huge numbness come over me that was part normal response to grief and part coping with feelings that could sear me if the numbness didn’t take over.  In grief therapy we talk about layers of our loss, and the loss of the easily excited, exuberantly hopeful parts of myself was a sad layer of my loss.  In grief therapy, I would ask our counselor when I was going to feel like “me” again and she would say that I would feel something similar, but I am forever changed by the death of my son.  This new self can is full of goodness too, but definitely different.  A piece of me had become a bit guarded, fearful I guess, of loving anyone so much that it would devastate me to lose them. This year, when I come up against the fear and numbness that stifles feeling of big huge love and joy, I will remember to love like crazy.  I invite you on this journey with me