Friday, January 22, 2016

They're Good when they Sleep

My mother-in-law once told me when she, as a young girl, asked for herself and her brother, "Mama, are we good?" her mother said, "You're good when you sleep." The first time I heard this story, I was a bit appalled. How could a mother say such a thing to her child? Was she implying the only time they were good was when they were knocked out cold? It seemed pretty harsh, even for German ancestors not known for their effusive affection.

Over the years, my husband and I have made a bit of a joke of it when our girls catch an unplanned nap, with a smile we whisper to one another, "They're good when they sleep."  But now, I actually think I get what his grandmother meant and I imagine her answer may have been different had she been asked on a different day or even a different time of day. Some days are crammed to the corners with the demands of parenting. The good isn't wildly evident amidst bickering, groans over homework and debates over why Cheetos aren't vegetables. But when the day's work is done and they are nestled in their beds, curls tousled over softly printed pillow cases, that is when we have the full bandwidth to see them – 
to see that they are good, they are everything good.

Even on the best days of mothering, I am generally quite ready to call it a night as I kiss the little loves to sleep. There are times as I walk out the door of their room and they ask for yet one more fresh glass of water, it is all I can do not to go bat crazy because I haven't been allowed to clock out at my normal quitting time. The humanity! I usually don't lose my shizzle, and I do really adore these treasured girls, but we all have our limits. In the evening I eagerly anticipate those moments when no one will ask me how to spell something or why owls bob and weave their heads. And yet so many times after they have gone to sleep, when I am in the quiet all alone and I think only of them.

My mind replays the accounts of the day. Sometimes it's the best of moments that come to mind – the times when we loved one another well, laughed heartily, listened intently to one another. Other times I recount missed opportunities or a tone I wish I hadn't taken. I offer a prayer of thanks that a new day is coming, a second chance to do better. And soon I find myself climbing to the top of the stairs to have one more look at them. They always look especially tiny in their beds, knees pulled to their tummies, faces softened with nary a crease to be found. It is in this place, where nothing is required of me, that I can see it. All of their goodness rises like cream and I see who they really arevulnerable, beautiful, tiny, impressionable, treasured little beings entrusted to us for a whisper of time. And I see how good they always are, imperfect, but always good.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Here I will Stand, Here I will Dwell

I love a fresh start, a clean page, and most especially a new year. January always feels so full of promise and hope. Though I don't make resolutions, I do resolve to do things better and set goals for the coming year. I like to focus on a word or two maybe because that's all I can remember. Ha! In pondering and praying about 2016, the words stand and dwell kept coming to me. The idea of being unmoved by circumstance is wonderfully appealing to me. And staking a claim on promises, dreams, new land is what I'd love for this year to be about.  

My friends and family tell me I'm steady and I am glad to agree. You won't have to wonder what sort of mood I'll be in when we meet and I am ever looking for the bright spot in every dark sky. But I know that in my heart of hearts, there are things that make me waver. I want to stand gracefully no matter the circumstance or expectation. I love even more the idea of peacefully dwelling in peace right where I am. I journaled about these words and my hope for the new year on January the 5th. It was just three days later that I got a call from the school nurse to say Emerson had fallen, a broken bone was suspected and I should come right away. The irony wasn't lost on me that my word to focus on for the entire year was stand and just a few days later, a fall happened. Is it bad that my first response was relief when I heard it was anything but head lice? I still have PTSD and it's been three years. Bones have been shattered, NBD, at least there aren't microscopic bugs crawling through the locks of my babe. Seriously, those relentless tiny beasts will survive the apocalypse.

In addition to being thankful that my head wasn't already starting to itch, I was overcome with gratitude for a quick thinking PE coach who saw readily that an x-ray was necessary. We would be okay. We are blessed with ample and fantastic medical facilities all around our city and we have good health insurance. I was so proud of how Emerson handled herself though there is no doubt that it was tremendously painful. Each time she described the way her foot landed on the mat after her handstand to the varied caregivers she saw, my brain scrambled to wash away the image as quickly as it formed in my mind's eye. Just oww!

She didn't waver as she moved her ankle further and further back the way it needed to be for the technician to get the best x-ray images. He told her it would be painful and it was obvious that it was, but she did as he asked without complaint. When the doctor told her that her ankle was fractured and would require a cast, she nodded silently, her eyes brimming with tears. When she was fitted for crutches and had to practice walking on them with her freshly splinted ankle, she listened attentively to his instructions and was walking on the crutches on her first attempt. They asked us to sit in the waiting room while they prepared paperwork for us to take to the pediatric orthopedist straight away where they would assess if surgery was required. As we sat, the EMT came in carrying two small plastic cups-- one full of water, and one holding two Advil tablets. He handed them to Emerson and asked her to take them. She told him she'd never swallowed pills and didn't think she could. He encouraged her to try telling her she could do it by simply putting them on her tongue and taking a big drink of water. She did as he asked but the pills did not go down. He asked her to try again, which she did, but to no avail. He went back to refill the water cup and asked her to empty it and the pills would surely go down and blurted "this isn't hard!" She drank the cup with tears streaming down her cheeks.

This was the wall. We had tapped out the "let's try hard things" quota for the day. She was done. She didn't need to clear another hurdle of bravery today and it was time for me to stand.

I told the EMT tending to us that we would use our own chewable version and to please leave it. Visably frustrated, he took the empty cup and asked her to spit the now bitter pills into it. He returned a few seconds later with a liquid dose of the medication he had in his stock all along. This version is for children ages 2-11 and Emerson is 10. This was the appropriate course for her all along. After passing her the cup he said, "You just broke your ankle without complaint and you can't swallow two little pills. You're stubborn!" Though he had been perfectly kind up to this point, I had a visceral urge to throat punch the guy. Behold the power of words to bring either life or death. I know he was only frustrated because he didn't see this as a big deal, a big ask. And on most days it probably isn't. But some days are filled to the brim with plenty of challenge and there just isn't room for one more "you can do it!" song.

My aim isn't to berate well-meaning care givers suggesting alternative forms of safe medication. Instead I realize that all of this serves as a great reminder that bravery, strength, and standing tall, are so very misunderstood. The truth is, when someone realizes their own limitations and understands when they have hit the wall, that's what strength looks like. It's not stubbornness or weakness or anything else.  My girl is so brave and she doesn't have to swallow anything to prove it. Bravery is in her DNA and mine too. 

My heart was so heavy after seeing her in pain, watching her sit through four hours of appointments and the failed pep talk. I looked at her and said, "You're so brave." She shook her head and said, "No, I'm scared," and I replied, "Oh, girl, you can be both. You can feel more than one thing at a time. Listen, bravery isn't the absence of fear, it's carrying on in spite of it." This is just one of many very proud moments I have had with this little warrior. 

I wish I could say that our time has gone swimmingly since this incident, but it really has not. We both fell the other day when I was "helping" her down a few steps off the bus. This little trick landed me flat to my back on our brick walkway. Ainsley got a stomach virus which displayed itself in a most un-tidy fashion, Dirk's still traveling way more than either of us want him to for work, and yet I am still standing. 

I'm delighted to know that clean pages and fresh starts can happen every day, not just on the first of January. His mercies are new each morning. I praise the God of heaven and earth that good health is our norm and smooth waters are what we know. But I will tell you this, though we wouldn't readily choose it ourselves, we can take a rough sea. We do not venture alone since our good guide is at the helm and we shall persevere. So in the midst of disinfectant scrubbing and assisting the temporarily casted, I stand on the promise that my God is good, so very good and I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 

Here I will stand, here I will dwell.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015, Oh the Places we Went!

Oh 2015!
I love that one of my last glimpses of you was over Ainsley's shoulder through an airplane window. The year was about venturing into new terrain. You took my family to Disney and Epcot, South Padre Island, Homecoming at U of I, cabins and pontoon rides, snow covered forests in Minnesota and the gorgeous Blu hotel at MOA. But you also took me places all by myself. I journeyed to Kansas to celebrate the life of my beloved Aunt Judy and enjoyed time with my incredible cousins. You took me to my 30th high school reunion to rekindle friendships and realize that being comfortable in my own skin today is far preferred to hiding behind it the way I used to when it was youthful and crease-free. But some of my most memorable journeys with you weren't as much about travel as they were about me placing my feet on new territory right where I am. 

You walked me onto a book launch team that changed me for good. You taught me that the internet, though sometimes ridiculous, can be a beautiful bedrock for profoundly deep relationships. You reminded me that true friendships needn’t to be chased, but rather come willingly to my path. You introduced me to names and faces before unknown to me but now forever etched in my heart . You laid out opportunity for me to share my words and be inspired by the words of others in wonderful writing venues.

You revealed a quote, though first spoken in the second century, was new to me this year: “The glory of God is a woman fully alive.” You inspired me to drink deeply the waters of life and savor the moments that are mine. The year before I was abruptly reminded of the brevity of life, but this year you showed me that acknowledging this does not diminish hope for the future however brief it might be. 

I came across this verse today that perfectly sums up how I feel with my face in the wind of a new year:

“We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.” 
Romans 5:1b-2 (The Message)