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

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!

Love,

Mama

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. :)



Thursday, February 26, 2015

She Calls Me "Mama"

"Mumm!! Mama! Mumum!"

I hear her voice and I come running. "Here I am, daughter! I'm here."

Her smiles lights up the room.

I don't know if she knows what she's says yet, but we're practicing. I'm teaching her that when I hear that sound, I will respond.



I love her little voice. The one that bubbles with giggles when we play Peek-A-Boo. The one that grunts out a laugh when I nuzzle into her neck. The one that says, "Mum!" when she wants to see my face.

She wiggles with delight, grasps my hair in her hands, and makes excited noises seeing her food come towards her. She is noticing things now. She acknowledges them.

I bend over her, staring in those deep eyes as she is nourished. My hair falls across her belly. She discovers it, really discovers it. Her hand brushes through it with wide sweeps, letting it run through her fingers, and coming around again. She reaches up to touch her own head almost as if she's wondering if she has such softness flowing down. My little explorer.


Everything about her is joy. Delight. Pure delight. Looking out the window is discovering a new world. Anything teal or green is catnip, eliciting squeals and "give it to me now!" hands. I borrow her eyes to see the world.

She says "Mum" and I say, "Alia, I love you," and I repeat it a million times because I want her to know it and I can't help myself.

She inspires me.


We snuggle and I think, "Can this last forever??" Already she wants to stand on her own (she can't yet), crawl on her own (not yet either), insisting she face away from the one who holds her as her eyes dart from new thing to new thing.

She's tasting the world now, too. Oranges, rice cereal, avocado, salt, cinnamon, pickle juice. She likes mom's milk best still. A part of me hopes she always will.

But not really. Some good things must come to an end.


I can't get enough of her. I'm the one she calls "Mama."

Me.

I love it.

I own it.

She is my delight.

I wonder what she'll be, what she'll do. Will she be like me? Will I like that?

As I walked down the sidewalk with a 6 year old last weekend I nearly said, "Keep up, Alia!" and then smiled to myself thinking of the adventures we will have, the places we will go. I can't wait.

I can wait.

This mama can wait for her baby to grow up, savoring each baby moment, trying to keep her little.


 Glamorous, isn't she?

I'm forever awed by her beauty.

I gush about my Little One, my Little Roo, but I do because I'm learning to be a little girl again, too. Learning to hear my Father say, "Here I am, daughter. I am here," when I cry out to him.

I read a quote from Bonnie Gray this afternoon and my breath stills as she confirms what I hear in my heart:

God longs for us to be a child again.  It's all He ever wanted -- was to provide a place where we can just be me.  And find that little girl emerge again -- with all her stories, her needs and wants.
So He can comfort her, take care of her and put her first place in his heart.
So He can love her.
(Taken from her blog, Faith Barista)

I find that when I speak words of great joy about the life of my daughter, I hear them echo back from a holy voice speaking about me. Not that I put words in his mouth. No, but I begin to understand his heart.

I remember being a little girl, climbing into my father's lap, seeking comfort, affection, a listening ear. I see Alia rest against her father's chest, calm and content to just sit there and I long for that.

I need my Father to hold my stories, my needs, my wants, to take care of me and put me first place in his heart. I need him to love me.

I also need to give myself permission to be so open.




What I love about my daughter (among a million other things) is that she doesn't need to give herself permission to call on me. She looks at her daddy and expects him to pick her up. Not that she's demanding or that we spoil her, but she innocently and rightly believes that I want to be with her, listen to her, nourish her, love on her, and answer her. Why? Because she's my daughter and I'm her mama. Her "Mum."

I think this is something I'll be learning and unpacking for the rest of my life. A beautiful gift God gives parents (not that you have to be a parent to enjoy it, but that's where I'm at!).

You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.
Galatians 4:6-7 (MSG)

Speak his name and he is here. Call out to him and hear him say, "Daughter, I love you," a million times because he loves me and he can't help it.
 
She calls me "Mama."


Don't worry. We're working on "Daddy."




Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I'm Pondering This...

Almost four months in and motherhood has my heart.


How could it not? This sweet girl who looks at me with adoration and complete trust. She has swept me up in a love I've never known and unlike any other.

My heart aches when she cries. I rush to her and she quiets, safe in Mama's arms. She knows they're safe. She knows what comfort looks like, smells like. This little creature who wasn't instructed to turn to me for help does so without question, without hesitation, without wondering if I'll comply.

I ponder this...



She grows and laughs now, wiggles with abundant energy, stretches like she's never once moved, rolls over when she's so inclined. I watch her grow, her shape changing, her acknowledgement of the world deepening, her delight increasing. A personality lies within that little person and it's coming out, breaking through the infant on her way to little girl. She can be measured by her new bear. By her new laugh. By her long toes.

She grows so quickly! Don't blink! They say it. They mean it. They're right. Nearly four months and where is my tiny baby? Who is this munchkin who says "Mum" and "Aaad" and "Ah uv ooo" as if she knows what she's saying? She grabs what she wants and recognizes the faces from across the country on a little screen that brings them closer. Who said she could do that? Who can slow her down?

I ponder this...


My phone's memory swells with photos and needs emptying once, twice, three times weekly, entrusted to a hard drive with more room. More than 3,000 and counting. The first child is well documented. I can't stop snapping, can't erase, must capture each moment, each moment, each moment. Is it too dark? I'll lighten it. Is it too blurry? See how active she is! Is it a funny face? Happens to the best of us. Must keep them all.

She refuses to sleep in her bassinet preferring the closeness of mom and her comfortable bed. Mom can't object because one day she won't want to cuddle and now it's so precious.

I try anyway.

Eyes open wide in that little crib and she stares, stares, stares unblinking and rapt. I sing her a lullaby, a hymn, notes from my heart and she stares, stares, smiles and stares, in awe, in love, enraptured. My "audience of one" has always been spiritual, and heaven knows she's no angel nor divine but oh, if she's my only audience then my heart is full, the house is sold out.

Her blue eyes stand out in the near dark...a poor photograph captures them in all her father's glory. Eyes he gave her, yet all her own. They're always searching, exploring, locking on parental faces, faces who love her most.

She scans the room for her father's face whenever she hears his voice. She stares deep into my eyes as I sing my love over her.

I ponder this...


My word for the year is "Return." 

I hear Dean Martin sing and Hosea echoes in my ears and Jesus beckons and the Holy Spirit tugs at my heart.

I hard stop what I'm doing and scan the room for his face as I hear his voice. I am unfaithful and filled with wanderlust, but he chases me down. I am diseased and foreign and he heals and welcomes. So I return and give thanks. Oh, I give thanks. 

I say "I love you" the best I can and sometimes it comes out unintelligibly, but he sees the tears streaming as I reach to meet his embrace, reaching with hand holding bread dipped in wine. I'm nourished by his comfort, loved though my personality breaks through the little girl so long on my way to woman. I rest in that embrace, home again.

And I return and give thanks.

Thanks for my beautiful daughter teaching me so much about the Father's heart.
Thanks for her love teaching me so much about unconditional acceptance.

I ponder this...



Almost four months in and motherhood has my heart.

I'm still an expectant mama. Expecting my heart to be wrung and rent and reformed by this beautiful new love.

I'm pondering this...