Friday, August 31, 2012

Nine Year Old Me


It's Friday, so I'm at Lisa Jo's place for Five Minute Friday. 

Interested? Here are the rules:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..
OK, are you ready? Please give us your best five minutes on:::

Change…



We all live with our choices and for whatever reason, mine have been haunting me. He says that fear sneaks up on him; for me it’s regret.

I close my eyes and I am there again. The blue pews. The stained glass. The linoleum floors. We are getting older, full of questions they move our class up from the basement onto the main floor in the library. Navy blue, deep mauve and round tables. The walls are lined with books that even for this bookworm seem a little too difficult. We learn our lesson and are released into the sanctuary, past the nursery where I love to spend my time.

I used to feel popular, feel secure in my friendships, but it’s that age when relationships are tested, and my best friend Sarah has that wonderful, extraverted personality where she can have multiple best friends. This introvert just wants one. And so I spend my time feeling as if I’m fighting to maintain that friendship – I just don’t want to be alone. I don't want things to change. Growing up is hard and today I’m just tired. Let’s just get past the grownups and the kids and find our place in the front row next to our friend before the other girl does.

But before I make it into the safety of the sanctuary I am caught. Some adult, I don’t even know, stops me to introduce me to her. I know instantly why they choose me. I’m the nice girl. I’m the sweet girl. I’m the girl at the Christian school. I’m the girl who will stop and pray for someone (out loud even!) if someone is hurt. And maybe on the outside I seem like I have a lot of friends here; they just don’t know that I feel each minute that I’m fighting for survival.

I shake her hand and smile, all the while pushing back tears as I see Amy run up the sanctuary aisle to my spot next to Sarah. She gives me a hug so tight I can still feel her arms around my neck. They tell me that I’ll spend more time with her next week.

Later they tell me that she has something called Down Syndrome, and because of that she doesn’t have a lot of friends. I instinctively want to take her under my wing, but all I can think about is Sarah and Amy in the front row and me stuck in the back with my parents and the new girl.

The next week she finds me quickly. I take her into Sunday School and the boys snicker and stare. The teacher scolds them. The girls are nice enough at first, but choose to sit at a different table. I’m at a round table by myself – with her.

She holds my hand so tight. She’s talking to me but I don’t understand every word and I can’t see her because my eyes are filling with hot tears, tears for her and tears for myself as I watch my friends seem to slip away.

The next week I walk into that room and see a table of my friends, and a table with the new girl.

I make a choice and that scared girl wins out. I sit near my friends.

I was just a kid.

They were changing.

I changed.

I still regret that choice. 

TIME

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Land of the Living



I don’t speak of it directly much anymore. It's not my right now, is it? My voice that used to carry across an auditorium has been reduced to a whisper. The pillar of cloud that leads during the day and the pillar of fire for the night have faded and I don’t see them. I walk, I trod, I crawl following my previous steps, hoping it’s the same direction. Is that faith? Even though I can’t see, I walk and I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Where is that even from?  I thumb through the soft and well worn pages hoping I’ll find it. Notes and highlights remind me of what I used to know.

It’s all my fault. I fumble in the darkness, in the fog that weighs heavy on my skin, a constant reminder that I did something, made some decision along this path that left me in the shadow.

But I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

I wonder what was real and what was mere zeal. I waited. I pursued. I sought. I kneeled down on the altar. Heart clean. Hands raised.  Mouth open. And the fire passed me by. Oh, God, I waited. But I also wandered, not far but I should know better. And now I’m alone here in the darkness and my face is wet and I don’t know if it’s from the mist of from the tears that fall without warning. I welcome the tears for I fear the day they leave me dry and all I’m left with is regret.

But I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

I speak as if I’m David, “Lord you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake and arise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and my Lord. Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me.”
I stop to catch my breath.
Even in the silence that haunts me I hear this…..

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

The weight of my sins. The weight of my mistakes. The weight of my decisions hold me down and I cannot lift my head.

And I wait. Again.
For You are the lifter of my head.
And I wait. For that grace to wash over me. 
To push out the darkness. 
To resuscitate me with your breath. 
And to spark and make the fire burn bright again.
A pillar to lead me.

For I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27, Psalm 35, Psalm 3

Friday, August 24, 2012

It Screams Out


The headline screams, “19 Hurt in 7 Overnight Shootings in Chicago

My heart sinks as I scan the article. This is not how I wanted to be greeted on this beautiful morning.  The sun is shining illuminating the room as a breeze blows through the condo, whispering of all that the day holds. The girls are still sleeping and it is peaceful in our tiny section of the world.

But there is no rest when I read the article.

Nineteen people were wounded in at least seven shootings within eight hours overnight in Chicago, police said.
Eight of them, mostly teenagers, were struck in what's believed to have been a drive-by shooting around 9:15 p.m. Police were patrolling the area when they heard the gunfire at 79th Street and South Essex  Avenue.
Two 14-year-old boys, a 15 year-old boy, two 16-year-old boys and a 19-year-old woman were taken to area hospitals in fair to serious condition. A 28-year-old male was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition.
Source


I’m supposed to be thinking of going to a park today, what cookies we’ll bake, and which toys to bring to the beach tomorrow. But instead I’m thinking of the mommas. I’m thinking of the mommas on the other end of Chicago who are wondering where their babies are. I’m thinking of the mommas who are worried about their babies sitting in a hospital in critical condition.

I woke up wondering what I would write today. Plans filled my head all night with what I had wanted to accomplish.  But now my hearts is joined with these moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas. My heart is joined with the sisters, brothers, and friends. And my heart that was filled with sadness. This violence has to stop. And my heart is filled with anger. This violence has to stop.

I’m just a mom, on the other end of the city, somewhat isolated from the headlines. But I can’t pretend it doesn’t affect me. I can’t pretend anymore. My Jesus wouldn’t read the article and then do nothing. It simply has to stop. I have no choice to join. 

And I don’t know how. All I know to do is to write and to pray. And today, today that might be enough.

 Tomorrow might cry out for more.

1-2 Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, "How can I help?"
3-6That's exactly what Jesus did. He didn't make it easy for himself by avoiding people's troubles, but waded right in and helped out. "I took on the troubles of the troubled," is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we'll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!
Romans 15: 1-6


1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..
OK, are you ready? Please give us your best five minutes on:::
Join…

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Beach




It is the first time we have been to the beach all summer. Somehow the idea of bringing a one year old who loves to shove things in her mouth to a land full of sand, sea shells, and sea gull feathers seems an act of folly. But a friend is in town and it’s hard not to show off the beauty that Chicago has to offer.

Ours is the largest stretch of beach in Chicago. And when we are here, feet planted in the sand with the waves washing up against our legs, I know this is where we are supposed to be. I feel peace when we are on the beach. 



I watch my almost five year old (how is she almost five?) comb through the sand, studying each broken sea shell, each feather, each rock. I can’t begin to count the round stones she picked up and throw into the lake. Over and over again, she and her sister throw them out like wishes into water that seems to have no end.

We aren’t prepared for water play. They walk out in the water and the hem of their dresses graze the lake, soaking it in. And soon they walk out a little further. They continue walking out until their father yells out to stop, but by then it is too late. They are a wet mess. And I shake my head and smile. It’s my fault anyway. I’m the mom and I knew better then to tempt them with the lake and not expect them to want to play. I promise them we’ll return this weekend with swimsuits, towels, buckets, and shovels.



There’s a pier near our beach where you can walk out and see the city skyline. That juxtaposition of water, sky, land and steel leaves me silent each time. Kathryn yells out that she sees the “tallest building in America!” We haven’t had the heart to tell her that the new towers in NYC have taken the place of the Willis (Sears) Tower. Each morning she looks out of her bedroom window to see it and it just seems cruel to take that away from her. 

Sophie asks if we are standing on a bridge. I tell her it’s a pier. She asks me the difference between a pier and a bridge. I blurt out: a pier is solid all the way down, dug deep in the ground past the water. I begin wishing we were dug deep in our community.

It’s here on the beach that I feel like we belong in Chicago. Here I don’t worry about entrance exams, selective enrollment, test scores, classroom sizes. Here I breathe deep the lake air. I see the families that surround us, children splashing in water and that little boy digging himself into a hole that will soon be washed away by the changing tide. I see the young people surround us, oblivious for just a while longer to the demands of adulthood. I see a group of Muslim women, sitting under that tree that grows on the edge between sand and grass, heads covered, talking as they vacillate between laughing and serious whispers. 

The hard edges of city living are washed smooth, just like the rocks that line the shore.



The sun is shining down, warming our skin.  We hold hands and walk back to our car. I look down and look at their feet. There are not many things I like more than seeing my girls feet with a light coating of sand. There is just something about it that makes my momma’s heart burst into a thousand pieces. I walk back slowly, knowing that each step puts us that much closer to the Chicago I don’t like as much. So I hold their hands tighter, Lucy nestled snug against me, sleeping between my chest and the baby carrier, blonde hair shining in the sun. I whisper to them, “I love you.” And they hold my whole arm, head resting against my hip as we walk back to our life.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Space to Breathe




It's Friday morning, so I'm linking up with the ever lovely Lisa-Jo Baker. Want to join? Here are the rules...

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.

3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

OK, are you ready? Please give me your best five minutes on:::

Stretch…

I stretch my toes out from under the comforter. The sun is shining in through the wood blinds and it is a beautiful August morning. The ceiling fan pushes cool air down on me, and I gratefully realize there are only two of us in this bed. After a week of teething, and tummy aches, and overly tired little girls, we have woken up this morning without any one of the three littles that try to make their way into our bed each night.

I roll over and see him still sleeping. His has been a week of work projects, school projects and home improvement projects. On his one free evening with us, he shows his love by carrying loads of dirty laundry down four flights of stairs and carrying loads of clean laundry back up the four flights. I put the baby to sleep and wake up after midnight on the couch with her only to find that he has folded all the laundry for me. I brush his hair with my hand and let him sleep.

This stage we are in stretches us over and over. The demands have worn us thin. But in this morning, in this hour, there is space to breathe, space to breathe.


Friday, August 10, 2012

A Letter to My Husband


A Letter to My Husband,

I remember walking to the door of my little apartment in Connecticut, the one you hated. I touched the door handle and paused. In that moment I knew….I knew that my future was on the other side of that door. I slowly turned the knob and opened the door. I looked in the eyes of the 6 foot tall military man on the other side, dressed in a blue polo and jeans and thought, “Crap.”

Six and a half years later, I walked out of the bathroom, hand shaking as I entered our bedroom, and I looked into the eyes of that 6 foot tall former military man holding his hand out to take the pregnancy tester out of my hand and with tears I laughed, “Holy crap.”

Two of the most meaningful moments of my adult life and sadly I have the word CRAP ascribed to them. It’s not elegant, but neither are we. It’s honest, and messy, and true.

We met online before eHarmony existed. I was 25 and convinced that I was running out of time. I belonged to a church in a military community, and most people my age were already married with at least a couple of kids. I went online begrudgingly, but you were special. You were my friend before we ever met. You’ve been my best friend ever since.

The military kept us apart for a long time…..submerged under water, confined in a metal tube, you were gone for months at a time. I sent you letters and emails each day. You knew my heart inside and out. I’m not that good at sharing out loud, so I think those emails and cards were a blessing. It gave you a chance to really know me, although I would be horribly embarrassed if anyone were to ever see them.

They moved you overseas, and I was crushed. I tried to be brave and we visited each other every 4-6 months. And when you couldn’t take another Christmas without me, we got married and spent a glorious six months in London and then backpacked through Greece and Egypt.

Almost nine years we’ve been married….already we’ve visited death, (temporary) infertility, heartbreak, ministry craziness, estrangements, and all the drama extended families can hold. You’ve stayed at my side.

You know all the bad parts of me. Somehow you love me anyway.

You bought me a laptop so I could write, because you believe in me.  You work so hard, so long, all because you love us.  You work and work and then you go to school. Work and homework can overwhelm. Every other bit of time you give to us freely. You joke about it, but you really are our Giving Tree.

Sometimes I’m sad that we met later in life, although looking back we were still young. But it really was God’s timing, I promise.

I know life looks completely crazy right now and nothing like we imagined. But I see you playing with the girls at night…..I see you in them, and I barely contain it. Lucy only lets me put her down for 5 minutes at a time, so nothing ever gets done. What does rest look like? I don’t know anymore and neither do you. I know it’s hard, but I’m still here, we’re all here with you.

The girls are growing up. Now our nights are filled with bottles and cuddles. Soon our weekends will be filled with soccer games and dance practices. Kathryn’s learning to read, can you believe it? (She’s a smarty, just like you)  Lucy thinks she’s a big girl although she’s just turned one. (That stubbornness isn’t from me….)  And Sophie? That girl is going to move mountains. (She’s just like her Daddy)

I’m learning too. I’m learning not to take you for granted. I’m learning that I need to keep getting to know you, even though I barely remember a time without you. I want us to keep growing together, cause Baby, I love you so much.

Someday we are going to be old and gray. Maybe we will be holding hands in matching rocking chairs, somewhere in the country watching our grandchildren play. Maybe we will be living in an apartment somewhere overseas, Skyping with our family back home, or using whatever crazy technology we have then.  Our future is yet to be written. All I know is I want you to be by my side until the end.

You can print this out, if you want to. I know you saved all the other letters, emails, and cards I’ve ever written to you in a box – it’s in the back of the spare closet. There’s just one thing I ask of you…. please, for the love of all things good and holy, never let the kids see them.  Ever.

Love, me


Today I joined Anne at her place, http://modernmrsdarcy.com/ to join her Perspectives on Life and Love Blog Carnival. Stop by her neck of the woods to read all the other great stories!

The Fish Bowl


It’s Five Minute Friday, so I’m joining in again with Lisa Jo Baker over at her place……


1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.

3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

OK, are you ready? Please give me your best five minutes on:::

Connect..............
I remember taking them to the zoo when they were little. They would see the massive tanks, teeming with fish and swirling with color. Sophie would walk up with her then chubby little legs, and reach out her hand touching the outside of the tank. She moved her hand around the tank, looking for some kind of opening, expecting that she could touch the fish, trying to feel. Frustration soon takes over and she is banging her hand on the thick glass, hot tears pouring out of her sea blue eyes. So, so close to those fish but she can’t connect.

We have days like that too, don’t we? This whole weird Twitter-verse out there puts us so close to each other. We meet people that live worlds away, by geography or by way of life. We listen to their thoughts throughout the day, all 140 character bits at a time as we share ours. And we start to get to know them. We read their blogs, the words that they have carved out of their soul, and we do the hard work too, sharing our heart with the world. But sometimes, our words remain unread, unheard.  That connection that we hope for just doesn’t happen.

Sometimes discouragement takes over. I look around at this crazy fish bowl, and feel decidedly outside of it, when everyone else is inside, swimming around together. All I can think is, please, please just take the time to see and hear what’s in my heart….I know we’d connect. I know we could encourage each other. But that doesn’t happen.  I bang my hands on the thick glass too.

So every morning, I’ll sneak over to the computer, before the girls are running around, asking me to play dolls and make eggs and sit on laps. And I’ll share a bit of my heart and try to let you into my world and my life. Sometimes I’ll hit publish, sometimes I’ll tuck it away. I'll let the art out, but then I need to walk away. Because as much as I crave some connection out there, there are three little girls who are watching Super Why, waiting for their‘s.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Opening



I sent out the email because I knew it was the next step. I was so scared about it all that I hit the send button before I bothered to put in the link. Then I had to remember who I put on that email thanks to the BCC and resend it out. Yeah, I’m a skilled communicator.

I crave community. I want to build relationships and learn to be the friend that I have been looking for since my best friend moved to Florida (she’s still a traitor for leaving me J). But I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been burned. Been burned bad. And because of that, I back off quickly if I see warning signs. I don’t need a red flag to get me running….a hint of pink and I’m packing up. I think at some point we all have that devastating betrayal…and once that hits it changes everything. Forgiveness is one thing. Opening yourself up to the chance for it to happen again is quite another.

So I wrote about how I wanted a friend to share coffee with, and I hit publish, and then emailed it to these amazing ladies that I let into my home each week, but not into my life. And I know it is on me that I’m so closed off, so I did it trying to be brave.

And I realized I’m not alone.  I received wonderful emails and comments and I learned that we all have do over days. And questioning our role as mothers and wives isn’t uncommon. And we all have lonely days. And we all have some kind of art in us that is trying to get out in between breakfast and lunch and diapers and nursing and coloring and games and cleaning.

It might not be Egypt, it might be Niger, but our hearts are full and can’t hold it in. Somewhere between then and now. I’m trying so hard to be present, to flesh out this life and do the Kingdom work now, but it’s hard, isn’t it? And you are there with me. And it might not be so bad to admit that we aren’t always thrilled with our circumstances and that when we are waiting for all things to work together, there is a lot of sleepless nights and days filled with wondering.

Yesterday, yesterday I sat on my couch, with a friend, with coffee, and talked. Oh my soul. With the kids interrupting and everything else there was a time of sharing. And she reminded me of the Psalm that says no good thing will He withhold. And my mind flashed back to that afternoon pryaing, wondering why He was withholding, wondering still, but it was so good to have a person to talk to. And then just an hour later a friend on Twitter shares the same verse.

In my closed off little cocoon, there are glimmers of community. There are tears and smiles. There will be joy, I can see it and I can feel it.
Thanks for reading, friend.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Here


Here, in the morning, in this moment, there is just me. Here there are the flowers he brought home last night just because. Here the morning light fills the room and my feet are warmed from the sun baked floor, even this early in the morning. Here there is always room for coffee and my cup, this cup that a friend gave, is never wanting. Here the soft leather cover of my Bible and the fresh pages of Common Prayer call me, bringing up no mention that I forgot them yesterday and the day before.



Here there are no shoulda’s or woulda’s. Here there is no judgment or guilt. Here in this moment I’m just me, a child of God, needing only Him.

But as quickly as Here entered this space, it starts to disappear. I’m not very good at holding on to Here.

Soon the sun that shines in betrays the crumbs left on the floor last night, brightly highlighting them throughout the room. My phone beeps full of emails from teachers calling in for Sunday’s service and needing replacements that I just don’t have. I glance at my mug and remember how I forgot to check on my dear friend who just moved – what kind of friend am I?  And soon I hear the sound of the girls running down the hall for breakfast as I glance at my Bible, feeling it stare at me, whispering to me that it really didn’t expect that I’d read it today either…..Here is gone.

So I make a new here and try again. I hug my girls tight, here in the kitchen, whispering to them how proud I am that they spent the whole night in their big girl beds. And I feed them here at our table, listening to their dreams of fairies and Jesus. And I clean them up and put on their favorite cartoon as I tip toe out of the room, Bible and pen in hand to read and to write and to take five minutes here.