She has always been a gift to me. Never in an official role, she has always been the bonus prize.
When befriending her oldest, I got the chance to gain her by virtue of being my friend’s mother. She exemplified what it meant to love Bobby – to both help him from falling and to be there for him when he did. Her persistent love for her son through the ups and downs showed me what it was to be a mother, before I was even trying to learn. Her persistent love for her son since his death has reminded me to cherish the days as they pass, to hold them gently and loosely, and to be a good steward of the lives entrusted to me. For nothing remains forever, other than the love shared. That always remains.
I couldn’t help but keep looking down at him as we walked along. His hand gripped mine and his thoughts poured out of his mouth. Four and a half and he is growing into this little boy full of curiosity, feelings, and imagination. Is it possible to grow in awe of Life every year that passes? Can my heart expand to hold it all? I squeezed his hand every few minutes as I felt the waves of time lapping into me.
As another year goes round and I add a number to my age, I can’t help but find myself lost in the vastness of it all. What is this life that I lead? With what, to whom, am I to live it?
On a Friday morning, once I’ve pressed “send” on the composed-on-Thursday-sent-on-Friday weekly email for youth ministry; once I’ve posted the global missions offering blurb to social media; once I’ve rattled off a few emails, I sit back down to my journal. Already open and one page filled out with my random thoughts on the lectionary text, my journal sits open and waits to determine how I spend the next few minutes alone. It is the morning before my day off with the boys at home begins. It is during these morning moments that I am not wife or mother or minister but simply just me.
I fill my days rushing around, worshiping the gods of efficiency and productivity. I thrive off of checking the boxes on my to-do list and I plan my day down the hour. I value a clean house and an empty counter.
So when the morning comes with the child hot with fever, my whole day feels ruined and I spend the next hours attempting to work and watch kids, aware that any attempt to juggle kids, my computer, and all the germs spreading is impossible.
Every Christmas, we pack up our lives and pile up the gifts. We drive south on I-65 and we begin our Christmas circuit that takes us all over the state. From house to house, we drag all our items out of the car (an obscene amount no matter the length of stay thanks to the little ones). Drew distributes and unpacks while I begin the vigilant watch of our 4 year old and 20 month old in new territory. Suddenly everything seems breakable or a choking hazard.
Christmas with two young ones is exhausting. Chasing them around leaves me so tired that 9:00 p.m. sounds like a perfectly acceptable bedtime. Watching them in new environments is a game of risk, a test of multi-tasking abilities while maintaining conversation, and a sport of trying to communicate with Drew through mere hand signals or looks that clearly say, “It’s your turn! I need a break!” Mitigating negotiation-deals with the four-year-old at every Christmas meal is always humbling while we sit in front of those who prepared the meal. He contorts his face and says in the whiniest, most pitiful voice he can muster, “I don’t like this. How many bites do I have to eat?” We unwrap presents and I practice my telepathy as I send eye-signals to the oldest to not immediately blurt out “we already have that” or “I don’t like that” or the most obnoxious, “Where are more presents?”
And yet, Christmas with two young ones warms the jaded adult heart like nothing else. Christmas morning in striped matching PJs, the boys jump up and down with un-matched glee as they see the stockings. From house to house, we get to watch our grandparents be great-grandparents to our boys. Our youngest’s shyness dissipates and he begins cackling and playing games with everyone. He plays peek-a-book, freezes, and shows his mean face. To watch my boys be known and loved by family – it is the greatest gift. Continue reading
The car was our breaking point this morning. Your Sunday morning wake-up call was too early. Your excitement about getting out of bed was too nonexistent. My patience was too low. There are burdens from work and casualties that come from being a son to a minister and a doctor. The casualty this morning was our beginning. It was not sweet and it was not pretty. It was ragged and rough. It was what was necessary to get Mommy to work on time. It was not how either of us wanted to start our day.
“When we get to church, I want you to drive back home and start agin,” you said.
Me, too. Continue reading
Words from my dad on the occasion of my 30th birthday… presented over lunch with two squirming boys on a Sunday afternoon at a quiet spot (that is, until we arrived)
Open shut them open shut them
cry then eat then sleep then cry.
Finding your voice
finding your feet
losing your fat
in come your teeth.
Long summer days
dolls in your arms
but then its your friends
and school-day alarms.
Homework and games
leaves orange brown
thick golden hair
laughs all around.
Stepping then running
then sprinting and bursting.
A long-legged blur
for the future you’re thirsting
The fresh life you sought
brings you close to new friends
who love and live with you
and form a new lens.
Through which to cast
an eye towards another
and see your reflection
That embrace once returned
leads to love’s relation.
and vows and new houses
and two new creations.
Eat then work then love then sleep
open shut them open shut them.
I blink and time has passed. Thirty years, three days, and counting. Days have passed and I have endured them. Some have sped too fast to catch my breath. Some have crept along too slow in between breaths.
The significance of these 10,953 days is not in the accumulation of meager wealth, success, or power. It is found in the ones who have walked these days with me. Continue reading
Eleven months and ten days after his first arrival in this world, it’s time to say goodbye to the intimate role of being the source of nutrition for my youngest. As the days come to an end, I give thanks for the blessing that it was – to nourish, to comfort, to sustain this little life from my own. It was gift. It was blessing. From the early days in the hospital to the grueling first months. From the return to work with all the embarrassing mechanics to the nighttime bedtime routine with all its sweet tender moments.
Since the beginning when we savored that first golden hour after birth, there has been an invisible tether that kept our personhood interwoven together. We have been two human bodies in deep need of one another, sharing in our fragility and strength in a way in which no other human relationship can compare. Continue reading
The door creaks as I slowly open it. Light floods the dark room as I carefully tiptoe towards his bed. I reach for the toy flashlight and turn it off. I take away the plastic light-up turtle and place it quietly on the bedside table. Pulling his covers up, I let my eyes pause on his face and it hits me like a ton of bricks. Love. Continue reading
Coming back in my office, I listened to the voicemail from daycare – “James had an accident… he’s ok, but…” The world stands still. The awareness that my son had been hurt, had experienced pain, had cried out and I had been elsewhere – unable to hug, comfort, and wipe tears.
It ended up being nothing too bad, but I was aware that with the smallest change in the accident, it would have been everything. One inch higher and it would have scratched the eyeball – it could have meant loss of sight, loss of parental peace and confidence, loss of life as we know it.
Driving to pick him up that afternoon, I entered that space – the space where life stands still. It is the frightening space where the Fragility of life rears its ugly head and demands that you pay attention. It’s as if you realize Fragility has been living in your house and you didn’t even see it. Continue reading