May 25, 2014

Hey there! Long time, no see.

Oh my word, it's been a long time.

I'm taking a cue from a friend who recently caught up her own blog despite the enormity of the task. Like her, I have serious "catch-up anxiety"and, well, there is a lot to catch up on. It's safe to say I've been paralyzed by the task. There are pages and pages of writing stored up- mostly unfinished or too-honest thoughts. I feel full and tired and fragile. All in good and healthy ways, if that's possible.

Since last May we have acquired a puppy. And a cat. And a baby.

The puppy is named after this great state and also for her dreamy ginger coat. We call her Ginny even though she doesn't answer and she likes her name so much that I've walked this neighborhood with four children and an empty leash one too many times.

The cat was a rescue and the adoption story is one for another day. Just trust me when I tell you it is ridiculous at best. At any rate, she also ignores me when I call her name but I rather expect this from a feline. Her name is Buttercup (after THE princess bride) and the children carry her upside down while dressed in french berets and American Girl frocks. She has yet to draw blood or even show a claw. The children frolic with her at lengthy intervals and so when life gets crazy and the stresses mount, I tell everyone to go and find the cat. I maintain that obtaining the cat was my bright idea and that it was a good one.

And if the dog and cat and their accompanying allergens/fur weren't enough to cause our visitors to dwindle, well, we also managed to squeeze another tiny human into our cozy little space. The girls now live in the attic. Seriously.

So if you haven't been over in a while, don't worry. There are no hard feelings. There probably isn't  anywhere for you to sit.

In November I birthed a sweet babe and she tricked me on All Saints Day with a fake water-break episode. When we arrived at the hospital to welcome her, she was upside down. And so somehow, my fourth baby joined us feet-first from the operating room. We all held our breath while the team assembled in the wee hours of the night and we cried relief when we kissed that perfect c-section head.  I thanked her for not arriving on Halloween and I assured her of a great company of saints who prayed her into my arms on the following day instead.

For the record, whoever said having four children was no harder than having three is just plain fibbing. Or crazy. Or infinitely more together than I. But when I start to feel nuts and wonder what in the world were we thinking, I look at this chubby, now half-a-year old gal and I could keel over in love. Each new baby we welcome is simply divine in his or her own way. And each one grows into a divine little person. We are stunned each time by the journey, the family transformation, and the heart-space they find to fill.

Yes, I am madly in love with this one too. She is the first of  mine to cry when I am out of sight and she holds the back of my arm with a desperate little grip.  She sways quiet on my hip during church and I miss her when I grocery shop alone.

I have a serious baby girl crush and her name is Anna Katharine.

And so I suppose this is where I have been. Homeschooling and bouncing babes and wrangling pets. Singing ABC's and Patty Cake while learning how to be more organized, more patient, and more certain of this season at home. I remind myself often of how quickly it will pass.

I assure you it isn't always pretty. But I promise it is good.

All that to say, we are alive and well.

For old times sake, here are a few (pretty) moments.  

June 16, 2013

Talking about dad

She was just a few hours old when he spoke his first father words over her. The night had birthed more than just the morning and the process hadn't gone as planned. I was exhausted ... certain he'd been traumatized.

For two years I had worked as a Labor and Delivery nurse. I had no personal life experience as I coached, telling all those mothers-to-be what champions they were. "Hang in there," I would whisper. "Your little person is almost here."

Now, it was my turn to do the laboring.

I knew too much for my own good in that delivery room the night before. I talked technical words with the doctor. I watched his face turn from casual to all-business ... the way he focused in, got quiet. The way the nurse's feet moved a bit faster. I had been that nurse too. And I read those monitors, told myself when to turn to my left side, when to deep breathe from the oxygen mask.

This man I made vows with sat by my side, quiet and sure. And he doesn't do hospital speak. Years before, I had stressed over thick, heavy books. Patho and pharmacology kept me up too late and I called when I needed to talk out what I was learning. He would tell me we needed to change the subject, say he didn't feel well.

He'd drive the hours to visit and then sit on my floor. I'd trace the route of blood flow over his t-shirt, recite what was going where ... superior and inferior, pulmonary and so on. I'd tell him how I could start a really great IV in the thick vein near his wrist. He would pull away, turn a new shade of pale green. 

So when our girl was close to making her entrance, we made a back-up plan ... just in case he went horizontal. But he was an all-star. When that baby came out with a vacuum shaped head, it was I who did the teetering.

"It was not suppose to happen that way," I said over and over again. I wanted ocean music and Enya in my delivery room, not forceps.

More than that, I was convinced he would never be the same. I wondered what friend we could call in ... he would need to debrief, discuss, recover.

But my Todd was shockingly steadfast.

Later, in the wee morning hours, he scooped our "dear one" into his arms. He sat upright in his green, plastic recliner and he grabbed the only thing he'd packed. With his little girl lying vertical in the crease of his lap, he opened up to the words he'd played on repeat for weeks.

Everyday I will praise ... for you open your hand and satisfy desires of all things ... One generation will commend your kingdom to one another; they will speak of you and I will meditate on your wonder.

He didn't tell her how much worry she caused or ask her why she took so long to get here. He just cradled her there, in a cocoon of pink and blue and a knitted pumpkin hat, all in orange. He turned to pages of praise and, with a new sense of awe and a bit of holy fear, he told her what she needed to know.

On the day he became a dad, He introduced her to the Father.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love ...

The lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made ...

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

psalm 145

Almost without warning, this baby girl is nearing seven. Two more have joined us since. Some days I feel like the oldest one just entered our little world. With first-grade fervency, she claims to love this Father that her daddy spoke of. And what transpires between her little heart and His, who can say?

But I know this: she has seen father-love in real life, in real time.

There is a man in her midst who has modeled well and loved her in extravagant ways ... the way he still scoops her up, cheers her on, runs along beside.

There is so much of this parenting-life we still cannot grasp, so much of this dad-life he claims to not know. But, in faith, we follow his dad-lead.

We follow the precedent he set on that first morning with our firstborn. In faith, we commend His works to those in our care.

In faith, we trust that they too might tell of the Father's mighty acts.

May 5, 2013

On time and quiet growth and resurrection

I haven't been able to write for nearly a year. No more than a few words here and there. And it's felt a little like dying. And it fits really, if I'm honest. Because I'm only just now coming to realize that we did, in fact, do some dying this past year. And time has a way of marking necessary growth. We are always changing, shedding old skin ... dying a little ... becoming more and more like new.

It's been just over a year since we started turning right instead of left on Sundays. And it is possible, you know, to celebrate and to grieve. To walk away and also walk into.

When we walked through new church doors one year ago, it was the beginning of Lent. And I watched my husband stand up tall and brave among a new crowd of witnesses. I took in a deep breath of certainty, mimicking him there, and I had never seen him so sure.

And it was like a homecoming.

That was last Easter. And truly? We've declared together and apart:

this has been our finest year yet.

As if we entered a living, moving, turning organism with all its liturgy and its calendar and its rhythms. We were swept up into a current that is fluid and brilliant and deep- its riches seemingly bottomless. And like a whirlpool with Jesus at its center, we have found ourselves plunging again and again into still deeper waters, swimming around and around - and always closer in.

And I am convinced that we were made for this: this spiraling, this liturgical living, this time-keeping. The way we keep hours in a planner and mark days in boxes on our walls. Alarms in our phones. Reminders on screens. We are creatures of habit and time- made with a limited amount of it and always living in a way that just confirms: yes, we are finite. And we were created for rhythms. Seasons.

Sure, we live the daily but aren't we running in much bigger circles, all of us? Large, twelve month, orbiting circles that bring us back to the same points on the calendar time and time again. And we run ahead and fast as if we are one up on time. But really? We crave what is familiar.

And what we know best ... is time kept.

Who hasn't felt it? When we move outside of time's zones, the way our bodies can feel foggy and inside out. And even those of us who long to be globe trotters and time travelers must learn patience ... must allow for the getting there.

And then for the catching up.

I suppose I am learning this right now. We waited quiet throughout all of Lent and the waiting continues. We took a bold step, made the initial move. And I would like for the Lord to be doing visible things and directing us in outward ways. Instead, I sense the same whispers over and over again. Every day, just this:

Wait for the Lord. Create rhythms in your soul and habits in your home. Wait for the Lord. Shed some fear skin and die to control. Surrender to love. Wait for the Lord. Write quiet prayers in secret.

And it is one year later and my heart longs to tap out meaningful words in this space. I want to know that I've grown or changed and so often I can't see myself clearly until I see my own words. I want to know what He has been up to from springtime last.

Instead, this year found me stretched. Quiet. Baffled by its necessary silence. It was Lent again and my struggles were similar, my fasting equally tough, equally eye-opening to my own sin nature and frail human tendencies. And still, I'm thankful for the rhythmic reminders in a year. Lent was a time to slow and remember, go into the desert with Jesus on purpose. To believe that I, we, really do live on something other than bread alone ... whatever that bread may be. It was time again to wait.

And in our church now, we are still celebrating Easter. Six weeks later we are still talking of the resurrection and, yes, I am being resurrected too. And this church calendar reminds me to linger- not to rush necessary growth or grief or celebration. Inside those church walls, time seems to stand still and I'm swept up into something infinitely larger than myself.

I am learning not to fear time.

I am learning, in the quiet, that He is always keeping company with me- this man who is outside of the hours I keep.

I am believing now, with a new posture, that My Jesus really has marked all of my days.

I watch the calendar and pray for growth from this year to the next. It has been a year of sporadic words. And I have learned to be alright in this place. Perhaps gestating. Perhaps finishing up with a necessary grief. And my answer, when someone asks, has become semi-lame but always the truest response I can find.

"I'm really good," I say.

Because I really am. Perhaps moving into a long awaited season of security. I sense an infant, sure   knowing ... both new and strong. I'm not so afraid of breaking anymore. I'm growing into some new word skin. And I think I can see it now- how I needed to find some courage in the quiet.

Friends, time brings change and change brings growth. Growth can bring some hurting. But good, healthy hurting brings clarity and purpose. Vision. And God willing, next spring will come again. We can bet that in the midst of time turning, Jesus will not change. His words will still hold true. His call to holiness will still be clear. His love will still be abundant ... His grace still plentiful.

I've watched calendar months fall away and I've been a bit restless. What will come of all this unmarked time? I can hope this next year is not as quiet as the last. I can hope that as the seasons turn again, my heart will turn too-

always spiraling closer into the heart of the One who holds me, and time itself, in the palm of His hand.