Sometimes you just need to treasure the ponders of your heart...

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2018 - One Word

Another new year and I can measure time in the height of my daughter and the smiles of my son. I feel days slip by as fast as a bowl of popcorn disappears and minutes melt like snow in Denver on a 64 degree December day. It rushes by, time. Relentless. Always pushing ahead. I struggle against it, try to catch it, try to pin it down. I worry about it, waste it, kill it some days even. I take infinite photos and record videos and voices and try to relive it and wonder how I missed it. It seems impossible that the year is two thousand and eighteen, that I am thirty-one, that my marriage is five years, that my Colorado residence is four years, that my children are three years old and four months old. So many numbers. So much time. Trying to measure. Trying to slow. Trying to stop. Dying to savor.

2017 was a roller coaster year (aren’t they all?). It began with much nausea filled with hope - the hopeful joy of a baby to come but only through the trial of morning sickness. We gathered with church leaders in January, were poured into, and gave thanks for the thousandth time for our church and the rich, healthy, Spirit-led, Word-planted leadership. We began co-leading our fellowship group in February and gave thanks again and again for the discovery of true community and faithful friends. March brought the visit of a dear friend, April the visit of dear family and the discovery that our family was gaining a son. In May, Alia fell out of bed and impressed the doctors with her bravery while being stitched up. The epic hailstorm totalled our car and the summer-long roof hammering began. Mamamama visited later that month and we escaped to the mountains for a somewhat snowy babymoon. Alia started swim lessons in June and we were able to find a new-to-us car. We took that new car on a cross country road trip in July and missed most of the family reunion, but got to spend time with family in Michigan and Kansas anyway. My pregnant belly did well, but poor Alia’s neck was sore from the trip. August reminded me again of God’s sweet goodness with a baby shower blessing and dear friends. The due date countdown came and went (August 31) and grandparents came to wait out the baby watch. September 5th brought our sweet Luca Elias through a natural labor (no inducing this time!) and unmedicated delivery. And while the end was intense, it was such a beautiful experience -- and MUCH shorter than the first time around!! Alia turned 3 in October and we celebrated with a cardboard city on the windiest day ever. We spent the sweetest little Thanksgiving, just the four of us in November, and a special Christmas the same way in December after three weeks of rolling visits from family.

Of course, those are the highlights.

It’s good to recount them. Good to count the blessings and count them again because sometimes it feels too dark to see the goodness, to see God’s goodness. It’s also been a rough year (rollercoaster, remember?). Almost four months later, I’m still dealing with post partum issues that the doctors can’t seem to figure out, zapping my energy and frustrating my soul. The adjustment to a family of four has been hard -- good, but hard. Patience is a daily, no, moment to moment struggle. (Exhibit A is how much longer it takes us to get out the door!!) Finances always seem a struggle. If I’m honest, God has been faithful through it all. If I’m really honest, it hasn’t seemed like it. Ironically, while typing that, my computer froze for a second and the words “Trying to connect…” appeared at the top of my screen. Yes. Yes, that. That exactly. It’s been a year of trying to connect. Trying to connect with God, connect with community, connect with our new family, connect with my emotions.

This year I’m not making resolutions. Sure, I’d love to stop eating sugar, get rid of stuff and opt for minimalism, write every day, reconnect with theatre, blah blah blah. But (nerd alert!) my “EnneaThought for the Day” dropped in my inbox with this thought: “This New Year's Eve you can lay the groundwork for continued growth without making any resolutions except one—to let go of the past, connect with yourself, to Wake Up, and be Present.” I couldn’t agree more. (Sidenote: I beginning to explore life - my life - through the lens of the enneagram and I must say it’s incredibly revealing and interesting. Perhaps more thoughts on that later.)

I usually jump on the “one word” train and choose a word that I would like to focus on for the year or that I feel God has placed on my heart as a vision for the year. For 2018, though, I’m choosing a phrase instead, a phrase that is already capturing my heart and inviting the Holy Spirit to do his good work. Ready?

All is grace.

That’s it. All is grace. The roller coaster is grace. The baby’s cries, the toddler’s tantrums, the grocery shopping, the empty journal, the questions, the doubts, the everyday life, the exciting moments, the disappointments -- ALL is grace. All of it opens the opportunity for me to turn to Jesus, to see how he makes all things new, how he works it all for good, how he changes it into glory - if I choose to see it. So, this year, I’m focusing on taking a second of the precious time that marches so swiftly and breathe the grace that it all, and I mean all, truly is. I’m letting go of the past, the mistakes, the fears, the worries, the hauntings of the past that like to tell me grace is impossible; I’m connecting with myself, my authentic self, not the self I mask or rush through or try to be, but who I am - there’s grace even in that; and I’m asking the Holy Spirit to wake me up so I can be present to his grace all around me.

It’s a hard one. It’s a humbling one. It’s a desperately necessary one.

What’s your word or phrase? I’d love to hear it. I’d love to keep reminding each other throughout the year that we made this choice way back in December/January. I know I tend to forget.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. It’s 2018! Happy New Year!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Good Night, Sweet One

Twisted awkwardly so my burgeoning belly is supported and I'm not strangled by your body draping across me, I dismiss the throbbing discomfort as you snuggle yet closer. You sigh as you settle your head on my shoulder, which I'm sure can't be completely comfortable for you either, and I know you aren't far from sleep. I cherish this moment with you, my firstborn. The moments when you are yet an only child will soon come to an end, making this one all the more sweet.

Your little hand reaches up and wraps around my neck, your body in a sudden starburst that stretches all the way to my knees. You used to fit entirely on my chest. Who is this long girl? My mouth is briefly filled with soft, long hair as you turn and I sputter as silently as possible so as not to disturb your now even breathing. A tear drops onto your head, not really from sadness but from that mother's ache way down deep that is hard to describe, full of terrible delight and the strength of sacrifice. I know someone who calls it a "joyful pain."

I stroke your fingers, longer than they once were. I find your fingernails, sporting chipped polish. I used to gaze in wonder at their tininess. Soon there will be more tiny fingernails in the house. I have a feeling you'll join me in the wonder-gazing: you're already fascinated with all thing tiny and baby.

My pregnant belly rumbles with hunger, yet I don't want to untangle this cuddle. I'm caught by the realization that soon meeting another's needs may result in the disappointment of some of your desires. I pray a blessing over you that we may always find special moments, just you and I. And I stretch this moment long because I'm still crying and you're still snuggling and you're the only one I need to hold right now.

Oh my daughter.

How I love you.

Oh, how I love you.

Good night my footie-pajama-clad, softly snoring, active even in your sleep, Alia Grace. You bring light to my heart even in a dark room and offer another glimpse of the Father's heart for me. I'm sorry your hair is salty wet.

Sweet dreams, daughter. May you actually get to ride the kite with Curious George this time. :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Memory & Momentum

Her breathing is steady as she works the handle of the nail clippers. Intense concentration, she wills herself to master them. She'll be two next week.

Her bottom scoots into the bend of my lap, the closeness building her confidence. She can do it on her own. Where did she get this fierce independence? I smile wryly, fondly.

I consider scrolling Facebook behind her back. Literally behind her back where she can't see and grab the phone from my grasp. Instead I caress her little toes. They aren't baby toes anymore. They look more and more like her daddy's, like a child's foot, like a little girl who is growing up and refuses to stop. I stroke these little toes in wonder, in sadness, taking in each little curve, each little ridge. I want to remember these toes just as I did her newborn toes.

I miss my newborn.

Oh, but I love my toddler!

She's still working the clippers. I keep a close eye to make sure she doesn't lose a finger tip. She can't yet squeeze them, which is a relief but I know that's coming.

I nuzzle her hair, that tousled, bed-headed hair. I kind of like the "hot mess hair" look. She's a kid. It works for her.

I'm soaking up this snuggle. I want it to last forever, to remember it forever. Words start piecing themselves together so I can.

I'm home with her these days. I love it. Even when I'm crying because it can be so frustrating, I still love it.

I think a lot about what I want this time to be for us, how we use our time, and what we will remember. Memory is everything, right? It's how we define our experiences, our lives even. We live in the moment and while we shouldn't dwell on the past, our present moment will soon be a memory and hopefully, it will be the kind that propels us to the future. That's how I want to use my time -- our time. Come on, Alia, let's enjoy this moment so much that we remember it with a joy that causes us generate more moments of joy. It's a sweet thought, maybe too much pressure if you think about it too much, but a worthy perspective. Let's just call it a direction for momentum.

I've been thinking a lot about momentum.

I walk through the house on my way to the kitchen, but stop quickly to pick up a dirty tissue on the floor and then reach behind me for the shirt a little girl just abandoned. I head back to the kitchen, but a little slower. My momentum was thrown off. The direction I had chosen was delayed by a slight detour. A worthy detour, but a distraction from the goal. I do this to myself several dozen times a day, only gaining frustration (albeit a slightly cleaner house) because I continually frustrate my momentum. And that only spurs me to clean harder, tidy faster, do more, but with something akin to desperation. My moments then are not filled with joy. They aren't moments I want or need to remember, but they start to shape my experiences, my life.

I'm home these days to love on Alia...and to write. More often than not I take on a different direction -- no crumbs on the floor, no dishes in the sink, no meal left uncooked. All very worthy things, and certainly a part of my life, but definitely not my purpose, not my direction, not what I want my obsession to be. I get worn out, so I pick other directions -- scrolling Internet pages, zoning out on Netflix, frivolous shopping trips - the kind where you don't buy anything. Again, not "bad," but not exactly where I truly desire to spend my time.

A tricky thing, momentum. If you stymie it enough, it flees. Thankfully, the reverse is true: the slightest hint of encouragement and momentum returns, sometimes even stronger than before.

This post is my attempt at encouraging momentum.

My daughter scrambles up on my lap and gives me unasked for and oh-so-welcome kisses. She runs over to her changing table and grabs the giant book tucked behind it. She struggles to drag it to me. It trips on her box of toy food and tumbles, pushing Alia over. Red-faced, she cries out and throws her hands up in frustration. She refuses to try again. No momentum. She's giving up.

"Alia, I bet you can do it! Take a deep breath and figure it out. Try moving the box first and then moving the book. I bet you're gonna do it!"

That last sentence works like a charming challenge every time. She grins and marches back to the fray. One hand grabbing the box, one hand grasping the book, she gives a good tug and shouts "ta-da!!" The book is free!

We flip through giant pages and I am proud of her and my soul is challenged. Take a deep breath. You can mother and write. You can care for your house and for your art. You can move obstacles and move forward. Don't focus on the frustration of feeling stuck -- feel the release to do these things you want to do! I bet you're gonna do it.

So I breathe in her sweet hair and let words craft themselves in my head. I exhale thanks to Jesus for this moment, this joy from him giving me strength. I sit on the floor munching toast with my toddler and leave the crumbs for later. And then she pulls out her toy keyboard because she sees mama writing, too, and my heart melts.

This is a good life. These are the memories that move me forward.

She drains the dregs of my hot chocolate and I finish writing because we're going upstairs to make some more.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It Is Good

I wake up in the dark to the cries of my one-year old demanding to be held. I groan, wondering what time it is, feeling like I’ve barely slept and whycan’tshejuststayasleepwhenI’msotired?? I roll over to “accidentally” wake the man who sleeps beside me – maybe he’ll go get her. But he’s not there. I hear Little One’s cries turn to delightful gibberish as she already rests in her daddy’s arms.

“He is so good with her,” I think sleepily, smiling a bit as I snuggle into warm covers.

It’s a phrase people usually say about dads, almost as if they are surprised, unwittingly implying he is not a primary caretaker or go-to comforter. I find myself saying it about him, too, with the purest of intentions, usually in a bragging tone (he is a good one). But this time I catch myself.

He isn’t good with her, I think. He’s with her and it is good. And that’s a huge difference.

She cries and he’s there.

She laughs and it’s most likely because he’s there.

He’s there and she’s fed.

Little footsteps patter to a hiding spot and there he is.

He’s there. He is with her and it is good.

She wouldn’t expect anything else at this point. 

Last night he went outside to simply move the car to the garage in advance of the [pathetic] blizzard, and she was deeply concerned. “Daaaa! Daaaaa!!” she called, neck straight and erect, eyes glued to the door. It opened and she scrambled off my lap, sprinting to greet him. He was back with her.

The darkness sinks around my sheets and the jabbering child quiets as the daddy sings Amazing Grace.

How sweet the sound.

No, really. How sweet the sound of grace so amazing and so heart changing.

My consciousness begins to fade into sweet sleep as I hear, “I’m with you, too. And it’s good.”

My heart receives it. Hears it. Absorbs the distinction. 

My God, He’s not good with me. He’s with me and it’s good.

We are approaching Advent and my heart is growing with anticipation a little more each day. I whisper, “He’s coming! He’s coming!” as Christmas day approaches, but my heart responds, “He’s here! He’s here!”

"O come, O come Emmanuel," my heart cries with all the world aching and groaning and hoping for peace. We cry out in the night. We cry out in the day. Headlines flicker and we cry, “O come, Emmanuel! Be with us! Healer! Restorer! Giver of peace! Be with us! Be with them! Be with me!"

And He whispers, “I am with you. And it is good.”

All is grace, we must remember. Even the brokenness. As we look and we hope and we cry out, we can remember – though the night is dark, though the pain is real, though the suffering is more than we can fathom, He is with us and it is good.

Maybe sometimes that’s all we can say. We don’t, won't have answers. We say the wrong thing. We aren’t sure what we think, where we stand, how to stand. There is so much confusion and so much pain and too many words already and really, aren’t we just wanting someone to step in and stop the madness??

Maybe we can only bravely, barely, faithfully whisper, “He is here and it is good,” and if that truth can resonate, if it can echo in our hearts – maybe, just maybe it will echo beyond us. Maybe the believing, the hoping, the whispering when others scream will be an amazing grace that can save a wretched world. 

Maybe it can just save me.

Little One calls for, reaches for her daddy, and rests in the full assurance that he is with her.

May my heart enter that rest, enter that hope, enter that peace. Questions may not be answered. Darkness may still pervade. Pain may still ache. But He is with us.

And it is good. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

First Birthday!

To my daughter on the occasion of her first birthday,

I've been saying "my daughter" a lot lately. It's strange this phrase, this little phrase of only two words, two words so rich with meaning, so deep and wide and rich and full and so tiny that the impossibility of capturing what I mean, what I feel, seems great. My daughter. My little one. My light bearer.

My daughter, you are one! You have lived your life on this planet with eyes wide open for three hundred and sixty-five days. One day you'll understand the significance of that. One day you will recognize that each trip around the sun is amazing, a miracle, significant. Can you believe that?? You traveled all the way around the sun! Your entire life so far has led up to this moment -- the completion of a cosmic circle. You've seen the sun, felt the sun from every angle possible. 

And now you begin again.

October 7th launches a new race across more miles than you or I can comprehend, at speeds that are impossible to describe, in a space at which we can only wonder in awe. Soon you will be two. Well, not soon, but somehow still soon. Let's not think about that quite yet!

What do I say to you, my daughter? You grow a little bit every day. These mother eyes can see it. You understand a little more every day, every second. You make significant discoveries with each tick of the clock, always curious, adventurous, exploring the world. What are you discovering right now, I wonder.

I love your heart. I love how you light up when you see your Daddy, how you reach for him with all your inches, how you snuggle his face with a cheek hug special to you both. I love how you laugh with your whole body, your head thrown so far back, and how you cry when someone else gets hurt. I love that yesterday you let a child take one of your toys, but you held on so tight to the other. I love that you tell stories and you sing songs and you constantly ask for more music, more music, more music! You are a delight. A pure delight.

I always expected to have a daughter at some point. Granted, "some point" was much further in the future than now, but oh, how I have been blessedly surprised by you. I admit I resisted my world changing, but you have been a beautiful change and now my world would be less bright without you. And while I always expected to have a daughter, I didn't expect it to be so exquisitely wonderful. Wonderful, yes, but this wonderful?? How could I have known?
There are things you don't understand until you're a mother. The inexplicable joys and sorrows, frustrations and victories, hopes and fears. I'll let you discover them.

I am so proud that you are my daughter. Maybe to a fault! I am in awe of your beauty, your brilliance, your capacity for learning, your independence, your talents. Some times I look at you and I can see you in sixteen years, in twenty-five, in thirty-two. Some times you're a ballerina, a neurosurgeon, a teacher, a mother, a friend.  I have a feeling my dreams for you will pale in comparison to the dreams you'll have for yourself.
My daughter, I love you. I love me with you. I love who I am becoming as your mother, the relationship you and I are forging. I love your tiny toes and your giggly, cheesy smiles and your slender fingers and your heart shaped ear and your soft hair just long enough for a short pony tail.  You have so much beauty within you. I love seeing it spill out.
My birthday hopes for you are simple. I hope that you will grow in grace, that your joy will only deepen, that your discoveries would bring you delight, that you would be surrounded and filled with love, and that you would be drawn to Jesus and know Him early. I pray that as you take more trips around the sun, that you would know the Son goes with you wherever you go (yes, I made a cheesy homophone reference. You'll just have to deal with it!).

So, you're one now. Time ticks on and you grow and you learn and you understand and you love. My baby is disappearing and my toddler emerging. Big or small, you will always be my daughter. MY daughter. My DAUGHTER. MY DAUGHTER. I love that. I love that a lot. 

Happy Birthday, my little love. You are a joy to behold!



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

I Picked Some Flowers Today...

This morning I picked some flowers on my way to the bus stop...

I race from the back door across the back yard and slip into the alley, turning to see a full bush of pink and green smiling so brightly I have to accept her offering. I always regret the *snap* of the severing moment, cutting short what might have been a longer life, but she gives the gift so freely, I can't refuse.

I clutch the stem as I walk, mustering the courage to be awake amidst the gloom we've been subjected to this week. It truly is gloomy. All greys and fog and drizzle, not at all the bright glories of summer. What does July mourn for, I wonder?

There's barely an outline of mountain down the road, magnificence shadowed. My morning commute is often so life-giving -- this stretch of time that is wholly mine. Thirty minutes of thought or book or journal or dreams, punctuated by sunrise, distant mountains, rushing river, sleepy shops, and thrill of city. This week, the struggle is real.

I love a foggy morning. I do. The mystery of the unseen can be more breathtaking than beauty beheld. I love the crisp, cool wind that braces for change. But it's too early. July has just stretched her toddler legs and is learning to walk. Autumn can wait awhile, please. I donned leggings and resisted the scarf -- it is summer after all.

The trouble with gloom in summer is one must summon energy to see the light.  

We get out of practice in the summer sun.

There is certainly something to be said about embracing the quiet shadow, letting it seep in and carve space in your soul. Time spent in the fog can reveal and heal and guide.

But then you discover that it is not really fog at all, it's not exactly the weather that is the culprit here. It's smoke. Smoke from wildfires so many miles away it seems impossible. The rain that has usurped the sunshine helps to clear the smoke -- a blessing others are crying out for all those miles away.

So I pick some flowers to brighten my desk, adorning this windowless space that feels darker for the gloom outside, though it's all in my head, inviting gratitude.

Sometimes the smallest things can lead to the brightest hopes.

In the elevator, a co-worker points to the stems in my hand and calls them weeds. Beautiful, but a vine that will take over the garden. I have mixed feelings.

Shouldn't beauty invade the world that way?

It's not a perfect metaphor. Good things grow in gardens and a weed shouldn't be praised.

How about grace then? What about hope?

I think there can be something lovely about the idea of a vine flourishing.

I didn't realize when I snapped the stem that there were still unopened buds connected. I keep them anyway and put them all in water. Mid-morning I turn for a glimpse of flower and rest my eyes on a miracle of hope.

Two of the buds had bloomed.

I don't know when, but what had been two green pods are now purple-pink blossoms, with another soon on its way. I wish I had witnessed the transformation.

I remember last July cradling my middle, swollen so and bound to swell larger. I dreamed of the transformation inside of me, wishing I could see every little development.  A little one sheltered and shadowed in darkness. That was around the time she started responding to light.

This is a precious memory now, perhaps not lived so gracefully. And even in that, I wish I had witnessed the transformation.

We can never quite catch those moments. The flower bloomed, the fog cleared, the butterfly broken free, the heart changed. And yet we hope.

We hope to see through the fog, the smoke, the waiting, because we know there is more, there is life, there is light. 

How do we know? How do we know there is something worth hoping for beyond the shadow? What is this instinct? Does a bud know it will bloom? Does a caterpillar know it will fly? Does it matter?? Do we know?

I wrestle with these questions often as I grapple for my hope and fight for my joy.

I fight the feeling of stagnation as I'm not creating a life or art and I try not to measure my worth by my creation. On good days I choose hope. I want to always choose hope, but the trouble with the daunting questions of life is that one must summon the energy to see the light.

I don't always know how to do that.

I don't always know for certain that there is beauty beyond the shadow.

But I hope. I want. I long.

Even in my darkest moments, something holds on to hope, something looks for brightness, something refuses to give up -- even unconsciously. It's human nature to want there to be more.

Now would be a good time to quote Hebrews 11:1, right? Maybe. Honestly though, I don't always feel assured of what I hope for. Maybe what "I hope for" isn't exactly what this verse is talking about anyway. At least not in this context. And sometimes the summoning of energy requires more strength than I have at the end of the day.

What I need is a filling. I need a transformation that sneaks up on me. An ambush of hope. I need rain that washes away the smoke, puts out the fire, gives life to the ground. I need an answer to this prayer:

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope. (Romans 15:13)

In the world that grows imperfect and broken things, please, God, please, let grace overrun. In a world of blue skies and strong mountains shadowed by smoke, of forests and fields swallowed by flames, please, God, let hope rain. Let weeds burst into bloom when we aren't looking. Let beauty pervade in all the brokenness. Let hope overflow and bubble over. Let that happen in me.

I picked some flowers on the way to the bus stop this morning. In this season of searching and praying and discovering, I purposefully opened my heart and chose hope.

May we continually be given the strength to summon the energy to see the light.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My Frog Princess

Once upon a time...

...there was a beautiful little girl...

...a lovely little princess...

...who ruled a kingdom of frogs.

She was a kind princess, sweet and caring.

Her subjects loved her, too.

They would watch over her.

They would vie for her attention.

After all, they had heard the stories.

Perhaps a kiss, a true love's kiss, would turn one into a prince.

"It might be true," they'd say to themselves, knowing they sounded silly.

One could hope. One could dream. After all...she was just so beautiful.

Who could resist?

Try as they might, it wasn't to be.

She was, after all, a little princess.

She had no interest in true love's kiss.

 But frogs are patient ones. They could wait. They were content to just be playmates.

For the princess was kind as she was beautiful and her sweet presence was joy enough.


The end.


Okay, so the story sort of fizzles at the end, but what do you expect? She's not quite 5 months old yet (but she will be on Friday! AH!); it's too early for a "they lived happily ever after" ending!

Thank you, Aunt Barb, for the wonderful green dress that inspired this fun little shoot! Alia had SO much fun playing with the skirt. 

P.S. The frog obsession is all mine, though she seems to favor green anyway. I may or may not have brought yet another frog home last night. :)