Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Baby, you look brave

So the kids did not have school today. Thanks for that, Columbus. Though it was a holiday the day was not without struggle. Our trials were likely not as difficult as sailing by night and sailing by day using only the stars to guide our way. But alas, the waters were a wee choppy for us today on our tender vessel.

Because there was no school I was glad to let the girls stay up past their bedtime last night. Though I thought we'd be up just a bit later, it turned out to be ten o'clock before we turned the lights out. This is late for us but I figured we'd make up for it this morning when we could sleep in as late as we wanted. That was until 6:16am when I heard the thunderous sound of galloping girls coming down the stairs and into our bedroom.

It was Emerson who spoke first, "The alarm is going off in our room!" Alone in our bed I was fogged over with unfinished dreams and interrupted REM so it took more than a few seconds for me to register that I had to actually get up out of the bed to figure out what the matter was. Once I had padded up the stairs I heard the unmistakable beeping of the clock radio docking station that sits on Em's dresser.

The odd thing is we never set this alarm in the girls' room because it's the girls' room. Did I mention they're in there? We want them to sleep. When they do have to get up for school Dirk does the waking so they didn't even know there was an alarm in their room let alone how to turn it off. I have no idea how it got set but I'm reasonably sure it was Satan's doing. Though we tried a good plenty, none of us could get back to sleep, so the day started with all of us in a deficit.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Home Sweet Home

Some days I can scarcely believe that both of the girls are off to school already. It's a time I hardly trusted would ever come. I have been anticipating this season for so long, sometimes with more than a little eagerness, sometimes with great angst.

I'd love to say that this season came with well-prepared children who eagerly embraced the new horizon before them. Though they were quite well-prepared for the change they did not necessarily embrace it with arms wide open. Or at least the sweet baby girl Ainsley did not. She did not take to kindergarten readily. The schedule itself was the biggest hurdle. In the first week there was not a single day when she did not ask why school started at night. She couldn't begin to imagine that people actually got up willingly at 6:15am (when it is still dark outside) after what felt like such a short night's sleep and had the audacity to call it "morning." I knew she was legitimately tired from the change to her routine and the long scheduled day she'd stepped into. But I was equally weary from the daily cheerleading routine required of me at the very same unholy hour of each day.

My attempts to convince her that school would prove to be a fun place to go fell heavily to the floor. All the while she continued to let her dislike of formal education known to us all. Dirk gently asked her just what it was about school that she did not like. I braced myself for the answer. She has a problem with the alphabet, with rhyming words, or with counting numbers. Instead of any of those things I heard my youngest girl say, "I just don't like leaving mama." Bless this child. Bless her to the center of her heart. She loves her mama. Listen, kids like their moms at this age. I get that this is not exceptional news. But it blessed me. She has not been a textbook baby or a simple puzzle to put together over our six years together. But baby girl knows she is so very much loved and she loves me back. She finds being at home with us the best gift given. Mission accomplished. But the girl still needs to go to school each day which means I had to dance a new dance and find a new approach.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.
Helen Keller

Well, it's happened again. The school year has slipped through my fingers like so much shifting sand. It happens every year and still somehow it's a surprise when it's all come to an end so quickly. And this year it's all the more so because it is Ainsley's last year of preschool. I cannot believe I am at this precipice so soon. I look down from this height and see a cliff that, sheer though it may be isn't all that scary. Progress is good. Kinder is a safe place to land. It's the right time for it yet my heart (and throat) has more than a little catch in it these past few days.

For nine years I've had a little lovie at home with me. It surely doesn't seem that long ago that I'd tote Emerson with me everywhere I'd go. We were constant companions. For three years it was just the two of us all day long.

So tiny and perfect and sleepy. That girl always slept like a dreamer. Still does. Dreams deeply, thinks deeply, feels in the depths of her almost nine year old heart. Yesterday she came home from school so happy that she'd finished reading a book about Helen Keller. She's completed a school unit on Helen and knows more about her than I ever did.

Yesterday she was telling me and Ainsley about the story. How she was in a group reading it with others and when she got to the story's end she had tears pooled in her eyes. For the Scarlet Fever or meningitis that took her sight and hearing, for the battle that came in trying to navigate the world without those senses that we all take for granted. For the maddening struggle to get the concept that every object has a unique word identifying it. But yesterday my girl wept for the beauty that was born in the struggle...through the struggle. That because of Helen's tremendous scrappy perseverance and strength she learned to communicate in a way unknowable to most people who walk the earth. She became the first blind and deaf person to ever receive her bachelor's degree. That forty-six years after her death we're all inspired by her life.

I wanted to stop the world from spinning in that moment. To pause time and forever watch the way Emerson's eyes glistened as she told of the amazing beauty that came from ashes. The maturity in her outlook floored me and once again I was humbled by what a beauty the little love has become. Oh.my.heart.

And so it is the week we celebrate our second-born's achievement - the milestone of moving on and into elementary school. And celebrate we shall. But right now my heart is thinking of my hope fulfilled. The girl who burst into the world and cranked up the color and lights and beauty. So much beauty.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with."
Mark Twain

I love this picture for so many reasons, not the least of which is that my mom took it. It's a glimpse of what she saw in us girls and wanted to remember. I can imagine how happy she was to have my sister and me in the kitchen with her prepping something for a party. Some of her most happy moments were in planning for and preparing everything for a party she would host. I'm tipped off that a gathering was in the works because the big stainless steel coffee pot is out and at the ready in the background. It only came up and out from the basement when people were coming over. I love that I look nearly identical to Ainsley in this shot. And so I can completely imagine my mom's glee in looking in on a little girl of only five happy to be helping the way that I look at my own precious mommy's helper. Though I'm reasonably sure we weren't offering a lot of true "help" to the process. I love that my sister is right next to me and that we're working together and smiling easily. I love that on the back of the photo in my mom's own hand the words "Christmas 1973" are penned in her consistent cursive. It's a snapshot I'll ever treasure.

It's almost Mother's Day so naturally my heart is turned toward thoughts of my mom as it ever has been for the past two months. Though we didn't always spend the day together when miles and gnarled neurotransmitters prevented our connection, we were always close at heart on the second Sunday in May. This year she's close at heart more than ever before. I feel her presence in the deepest part of my heart. In the corners that no one else sees, I sense her warmth and reassurance. I can almost palpably feel her enveloping hugs if I close my eyes and remember. Oh, the gift of a good memory. May it ever be mine, dear Lord.

Though I am still often drenched in grief and certainly a good bit of sadness, I celebrate this day with a new found memorial and hope. You know that mother's heart that revels, I mean actually truly revels in helping her child to experience joy in something simple? That heart that spends more time in the girls size 7-10 section of Carson Pirie Scott than the misses section and is all the happier for it. The heart that celebrates fully when their daughter is ecstatic about a new haircut or the rainbow toss pillow for her bedroom...all while she knows her own hair needs a trim and some color like water in the desert? It's that mother's heart we all long to have. To truly live out the gospel in our mothering by willingly (gladly, even) putting the needs of our littles before ourselves. This is what my mom did and this is what I shall do for her this first Mothering Day (as it's called in Great Britain) that I will spend without her.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What Remains

It's been four months since I last posted anything here. I haven't been silent because I didn't have anything to say, but rather because I had everything to say. I sit on the other side of the screen forever changed. I'm still the same one who feels things deeply and types things out and laughs in tense moments. But now I'm that person without a mother alive on the earth. I am still trying to reconcile it all. What it looks like to live in a world where the woman who poured her life into mine no longer breathes the same air that I do. To look up through the leafy trees to see the shimmering sun and know that the woman who raised me isn't anywhere to be found on this green earth. There just aren't enough words to contain the whole of it and that's saying something because you know I'm not known for my brevity.

But there's a story to tell. A really beautiful story about redemption and healing and love--so much love! You cannot begin to imagine how much love washed over me as I experienced the sacred, holy, unmatched encounter that came from watching my mom transition out of this life. All that remained in those moments was unfettered love. Just simple uncomplicated beautiful love and the promise that it never ever fails.

I'll see her again. One day. I don't want to be too eager for it. There's so much living I have left to do. And yet, some days I'm not sure how to so much as put one foot in front of the other with what remains. My mom would tell me to do the best I can and that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Proud Mary and Her Puppets

Our Ainsley was selected to play the part of Mary in her little school's Christmas pageant this season. I wish I could say that as they searched the class over they could find none more blessed among women than her. Instead, I'm pretty sure she got the part because the costume they had fit her the best. In any case, a proud Mary she was.

In truth she didn't really feel especially blessed to have been given this role. On the way out of school the day she'd been given the big casting news (albeit not as big as the first Mary's announcement) she was decidedly unenthused. She said with a sigh, "Well, I'd rather be the donkey because he gets to sit down during the pageant." Of course. Why pick the blessing of all generations when you can be a jackass? Is there really a contest? Mock though I do, I've felt the same way more times than I care to recall.

There have been times when the role I've been assigned in the story of my life was one I wouldn't have chosen first. And I'm sure that's because I knew it would require me to stand. To truly stand firm on the foundation of my faith in a sovereign God even when the road ahead looked terribly treacherous and scary. Botched plans and real heartache looked imminent and had I been given the choice, I would have much rather taken the role where I got to sit down. To sit it out. To leave hope on the floor and not risk the pain or embarrassment if things didn't go according to the plan or role I'd dreamt up for myself. But somewhere along the way I realized that it's not up to me to stand upright all the while. That there's Someone who will steady my shoulders and get me up and over the steepest hills and through deepest caverns. And I'll be the better for it.

And when the scene changes, God raises my hand above my head for me, still gloved and wet from the fight, declaring me victorious. Fight well fought! Struggle overcome. And we both know that I fell more than once. That had I not leaned on Him I'd have sunk to a place I couldn't have escaped without His help. But together we got through. Moved ahead. Overcame. That's the good stuff. The stuff worth standing up for (no matter how tiring) and taking the role chin up. If I'm sitting the whole time (with the other donkeys), besides being decidedly smelly, there's just nothing happening down there. Nothing to be learned or gained. Nothing to make me better.

I'm not sure that Ainsley got such a life changing lesson out of her part in the play, but she did come out the wiser for it. Just last night she pulled out these little finger puppets and proceeded to enact this simple finger puppet play:

Mary:(As the angel hops up next to her) Ahhh! Shrieks in horror.
Angel: Don't be afraid. I bring you special news.
Mary: What?
Angel: You will have a baby and will name him Jesus.
Mary: Can I name him Bob?>
Angel: No, Jesus.
Mary: Bob! (in a shout)
Angel: Jesus! (also a shout)
Mary: Bob!
Enter the alligator puppet,
Mary: Ahhh! Shrieks in horror.
Angel: Mary, I told you not to be afraid.
Mary: I know, I know but don't you see there's an alligator right there?!

I realize that most modern translations of the Bible don't carry the account of the foreboding alligator puppet entering the scene in Nazareth. Or of Mary and Gabriel arguing that the coming Messiah's name should be Bob. But it's a version I can appreciate all the same.

I really loved this story. Mary believed. It took her a second to not freak out when an angel appeared to her teen aged, virgin self and told her she'd give birth to God, as one might expect. But she trusted him very quickly. She bravely said she would do as the Lord desired no matter the great personal cost she would pay.

Then the alligators came. She found herself riding a donkey while nine months pregnant for weeks on end only to wind up in a stinky barn to give birth with nary an epidural in sight. For the love. But it got worse. People wanted to hurt her son. To kill him, even. And she might have felt compelled to remind God that trust is a wee more challenging when a horrendous death is prepared for her beloved child. Of course I trust you but don't you see the alligator that's right there?!

How many times am I just like this? I say that I trust God. I mean that I trust God. Yet when the big challenges of life (the alligators) come on the scene I feel it's urgent that I check to see if God's aware that new characters have emerged and they look pretty awful. That things do look ominous and is He aware of that tail slapping the water like crazy and has He seen those fang teeth?

The thing is, of course, He already knows the alligator is there. And where He sits on heaven's throne the alligator is 1/100th the size of a grain of sand. (Probably smaller but math's never been my strong suit.) And He knows when it's going to leave me alone and how much stronger I'm going to be for having braved my time in the cold water with him swimming all around me. How much less afraid I'll be of smaller prey and schemes the next time around. How I'll be reminded of His protection, His care, His ability to swat my fears away like so much rippling water. How that alligator couldn't have so much as opened its mouth unless God allowed it. He's the dearest and most compassionate playwright and the role He has for each of us is so good. Maybe not always easy but always good.

Oh, how He loves us and cares for our every need without any reminders from us.

Ainsley, blessed among women indeed.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Well, hello there New Year. Welcome! Come and stay a while, or at least for eleven and a half months when you have to leave to make room for your replacement. I'm glad to see you. Didn't mind at all saying goodbye to your predecessor, Mr. 2013. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't the worst year ever or filled with all manner of terrible but there are more than a few things from last year that I am happy to be finished with. I'm looking at you multiple lice infestations and burst water pipe in our sub floor. In truth 2013 was really sweet in many other ways and it sure did end well.

The holidays were some of my favorites so far. And truth be told I don't always anticipate them with tidings of great joy. I do love both Thanksgiving and Christmas so very much. But in the past I've held onto hopes that they'd be something they never could possibly be. Knowing we wouldn't see family I missed so much made me believe disappointment was inevitable. I used to spend time being sad for what the holidays wouldn't be before they were anything at all. But this year it was just time for me to sort of stop waiting for someone else to make our holidays wonderful and instead just make them wonderful myself.

So we did it. We made the holidays intimate and lovely and ours. Our very own. I recognized (for the first time) how precious it is to just be us. Instead of missing everyone we love (and we did and continue to) Yet this time I saw the joy in being our comfortable, tried and true foursome. The joy in not having to navigate around other schedules, palettes, styles, and expectations. And I savored every moment. I truly did. Not once did I long for more. My heart is so very full.

The house was festive for weeks and of course looked that picked up for about three minutes during those 21 days. But they were glorious minutes to be sure! And the girlies, in all their tiny-ness. Ahh, to be little at Christmas is the very best thing to be.

It turns out I have a precious little family. Our little foursome is a force. The girls are getting so big. Growing up more each day. The Ainsley love lost her first tooth and it seemed impossible to believe she was old enough for this milestone.

I promise not to look too far into you, 2014. To enjoy each day of you and really be here. In the moment.