Tag Archives: Traditions

Four

Fisher, you would be 4 today. And boy do I wish I could have given you a piggy back ride and felt your big boy weight on my back, watched you build and destroy block towers with your little sister, heard your laugh while we played a pre-school version of talking charades. It would have been good to slurp chicken noodle soup together and read you your favorite stories before nap time. But oh to cuddle you, hold your live warmth in my arms and kiss your soft cheeks. I would do anything to know what your voice sounds like, what you daydream about, what makes you smile and what makes you sad. I’d do my best to make it all better. I wish I could feel all better. It still hurts so much. So very much.

Your big brother sewed you a sweet snowman flannel bag today. Your biggest sis drew you a picture of our family. Harps asked all about heaven and said she loves her baby Fisher like she loves baby Schuyler. We all wrote our words of love to you and hoped the wind would carry them. Their big love for you both warms and tears at my heart.

Wish I had more time to write the whole of what has been on my soul, but your baby brother calls to me to be fed, and as with most areas of life right now there just isn’t the time to write and reflect if I am to be present for these moments now. There is so much more to tell you, so much more to say – in my prayers, in my heart, to scream at the top of my lungs in the lonely places. I love you son. Happy Birthday – someday we’ll celebrate real big okay? You’re irreplaceable.


Holding On: After All These Years, and For Many More to Come

Fifteen years ago a college boy who was out of my league in every way asked me out on a date.  He was cute, smart, successful, could tame a wild room full of Young Life kids with his funny stories and the promise of God’s overwhelming love for them, and he was so nice.  That’s what drew me to him.  His kindness.  His big smile.  The way he talked to the frizzy haired lunch lady that everyone else just gave their food card to without a word, about her son’s upcoming basketball game, showed me he was different in the way he related to people and I was enamored with that, with him.

I still am.  Thirteen years of marriage later, 4 births, one death, 4 cities, 6 homes, 3 remodels, blossomed careers, callings, ministries, travels, heartaches, intimacy, arguments, feeling like soul mates often and days when we must work to be friends, we have had many ups and downs in what is still the early years of a life-long relationship.  There is a lot of glue between us, from emotion to experience and I cannot begin to imagine my life with anyone but him, nor would I ever want it, ever.  Even amidst the day to day life of raising 3 kids, adult responsibilities, passion-filled career lives and ministries, and so much more that could cause us to pass one another by in an average day, I find myself awestruck that I get to share it all with this amazing man.  I feel lucky to know him.  It astounds me that I get to be his wife.

So, with a full throttle remodel in process, 3 busy kids’ lives and hearts to keep up with, 2 soccer teams to coach, barely enough time to talk about the functional aspects of our lives let alone hopes and dreams and intimacy building things, we planned a little getaway to celebrate an insignificant number of married years, that is of extreme significance to us every single day.

“It is the worst possible time to leave” we always say “which is why it is the best time.”  We need this.

We had some airline miles that were going to expire, a summer business that will soon take over our lives, a baby on the way that will cut-short our chances to travel and so many more reasons why we had to get away now, and it has been so good.

Cape Cod it is.  We came here in a blink 7 years ago and I have wanted to return ever since to the fishing towns reminiscent of our summer life.  With history and charm and antiques that are older than this century and houses that are even older, I love the legacies, stories and lifestyle of a the opposite coast of our young Northwest harbor town.  Even the simple differences in house design, (save me from the craftsman-style please! It is cape-cod that I love!) the drift wood gray shingles on every home, with lots of white trim, ocean colors inside and out, has me oohing and ahhing over this quaint respite.  Fishing and lobster boats out our windows, the promise of good seafood for dinner, a sandy beach to enjoy alone just before tourists descend en mass, it feels like a little piece of heaven to just take it all in with my husband and best friend.  Nothing more to accomplish this day than a scenic drive, beach walk and good conversation, uninterrupted.  It is all and everything we need.

Refreshed – Rejuvenated – holding hands with no-one swinging between them, we will hold these moments with us as we return to life as usual, a very good life – Reminded – that there is so much that is so good to hold onto between us.


A Time to Treasure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


Born to Bless – Part I


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

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

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

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

and we go to bed happy, full, blessed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.