Friday, February 28, 2014

Grandma's house

The house was torn down last week, and I didn’t even know it was coming. Not that it matters, really. Grandma and Grandpa have been gone for years now.

Yet it is strange to have a place in my memory with such vivd colors that no longer exists. That land will now support condominiums, not rose bushes and little girls running barefoot and drinking from the hose. I remember the delicious plastic flavor of the first sips from a hot hose.

It’s odd: the fragrance of roses makes me want to eat raspberries, because they grew near each other in her yard. I would pick an enormous bowl of berries, then eat them all, staining my fingers and mouth red.  I do not recall sharing them, ever.

I remember how mom would walk around the yard with her mom, to see the flowers growing, commenting on the lovely blooms while holding her arm to keep her steady. And writing this makes me realize that I have not made much time for flower-viewing walks in my mom’s yard. I’d better make time for that, before they, too, are buried by condominiums.

I remember hiding in grandma’s shoe closet, and sliding down the banister. Did my mom actually let me do that, or did I sneak? I cannot recall, but there are no guilty feelings mixed with that memory.

Grandma always had parakeets, and I loved watching them, hearing them sing.

I remember being half-asleep, being carried down the cement steps and into the car, on the nights grandma would watch me, when my mom worked late.

I do not remember much of my grandfather. Our lives intersected only briefly. He died when I was two.  I can picture him in the kitchen, and almost hear is voice. And I remember my mom hugging my dad in our kitchen when he died. But that is all.

I remember the soft, cool skin of grandma’s arms around me, sitting on her lap in an aluminum chair on the back patio. I was a distracted teenager when she faced her final illness. I wish I would have spent more time in those arms.

But it is good to go back to her house in my memory. It is good to try to recall myself as a child, to remember what it was like when life was about playing and eating snacks and riding my big wheel. It wasn’t perfect, of course, and as I look back with my big-girl eyes on my little girl days, the memories are filled with love, and longing, and an occassional whiff of cigarette smoke.

I think I’ll plant my own flowers this year.


“Show me, Lord, my life’s end

    and the number of my days;
    let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
    the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
    even those who seem secure.
“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;

    in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
    without knowing whose it will finally be.
“But now, Lord, what do I look for?

    My hope is in you.
Psalm 39


Do you remember your grandparents’ home?

What was it like? Where is it now?

For my family: more memories in the comments.

Will you leave me a few of your own, pretty please?

chair photo credit: ebay 

Monday, February 24, 2014

a feast for the weary

Sunday morning, people in tight shoes and uncomfortable clothes greet each other:
“Hi, how are you?”
“Oh, pretty good. Busy of course. You?”
“Yep, pretty busy, but we’re hanging in there!”
And off we go to sit in the pews.

We keep most to ourselves, not wanting to burden every one we see with our problems.  We do this because we are strong, or proud, or afraid, or kind, or just in a hurry.  We control how much of ourselves we expose, and this is not entirely a bad thing.

As I sat in church this sunday in my itchy nylons and tight mask, I wondered what it would be like if one day, all the masks were shattered. What would it be like if we really shared the heart of things with each other, even the ugly stuff? What if I could really see the deep-down struggles or the person sitting next to me, and they could see mine?

“Good morning, how are you today?”
“I’m feeling pretty small actually. I just screamed at my kids. And I know I hurt their little hearts. I can’t stop seeing their sad little eyes.”
“Really? Well, I’m doubting the goodness of God because of a news story I just heard.  Those suffering children… they just haunt me. Where is God in all this?”

“Did you have a good weekend?”
“I did, but mostly because I got drunk again, and now I’m feeling awful. Why do I do this to myself?”
“I don’t know...I’ve been sticking to my diet ok... but I think I use it as an excuse to be nasty to my family all the time.  Everybody’s angry, especially me, and I don’t know how to fix it.”

Can you imagine if our sins just hung out there for everyone to see? If our mouths were incapable of vague, safe conversation, but could only cut right to the heart of things?

Of course, if you spoke this way to me next Sunday, I probably would be too shocked to know what to say.

“G’morning, how are you?”
“I am mad at myself for being the worst mother in the world. I do not deserve my children or anything else. I am a selfish, horrible jerk.”

I’d stare, stammer, and probably spit out some hollow words to try to boost your self-esteem.
“Oh, I’m sure it’s not all that bad, really.  You did crafts with your kids this week. . . that’s more than I’ve done with mine! We all have bad days…” and so on.  But those awkward words wouldn’t help the sinner oppressed by sins, would they?

But our Father knows what we need.  And so on Sunday, I stand in my itchy clothes, wanting desperately to look like I have it all together, and right at the beginning of the Divine Service, I receive the correction I need. Together, with the put-together people sitting beside me, I am forced to speak from behind the mask, speak the true words of a weary sinner longing for grace:

“We have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.  We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment.”

“Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” We say it together, standing side by side as beggars before God.  We are weary, desperate for grace.  Before Him, there is no hiding.

The liturgy-- our weekly dance with God’s Word-- cuts right into the heart, forcing us to speak aloud of our aching need for grace.  We do not list our sins out loud, individually, yet God brings them to mind as we speak the familiar words of repentance.

We are given no peptalk, no 5-step plans, no self-esteem boosting to soothe our singed consciences. 

 Instead… Jesus.

An earthly voice, but called and ordained, speaking on behalf of God and by His authority:

“Almighty God in His mercy has given His son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins.”

And weary sinners are ushered into God’s presence for a feast.  We feast on His Word, we savor the gospel, and we taste and see that our Lord is good.

Who is this God who welcomes sinners and feeds them?

He is Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away our sins and the sins of the world. 

Happy are we who are called to His supper.

(Quotes taken from Lutheran Service Book Divine Service Setting One)

Friday, February 21, 2014

To Lorraine, on your eleventh birthday

“Mom, look, I’m almost as tall as you are!” you smiled as we walked home from school, your brown eyes dancing. And I caught your eye, and I saw the twinkle there, and the way your hair falls, and the warmth and loveliness and hope spilling out of you.

You’re not “cute” any longer. You’re beautiful.

You wear a big smile as you twirl in the dress you love, the one that flares.  Your bare feet move with your suddenly-smooth legs.  You still like to dance with your mother, but suddenly, I’m not so sure I wanted to pass on that “party gene.”

But, it’s too late to take it back, and so, we dance.

It has been a good week for heart connections, thanks to our shopping date, and evening book time, and those shared eye-rolls in the kitchen.  I still have a place in my daughter’s heart, and I treasure it. I will elbow and wrestle and fight to keep it.  I will even throw parties and listen to pop songs.

I am in your heart as you are in mine, but the truth is, I don’t always know what I am doing there.  Life is getting more complicated as the days pass, and there are new things to worry about, new reasons to pray.

I want to do more praying, and less lecturing (not no lecturing, of course, but less.)  I want to be the kind of mom who helps you know you are seen and heard and loved.

On your birthday evening, after the boys went to bed, we snuggled in front of a movie. You asked me to play with your hair, and I was happy to do so while you fell asleep on me. Has it really been eleven years? I remember our first snuggle in bed-- the large hospital bed, which daddy shared with me that first night so we could have more time to just stare at you.

It struck me last night-- eleven years from now, you will be 22. Our time together, like this, you in my house and in my arms-- it's more than halfway over. I can't even imagine what life will look like then.

This morning during family devotions we talked about God's plans and our plans. I told you how I'd once wanted to be a teacher, and daddy pointed the way God does use me to teach even now, even though I don't have a teaching “job” like I might have imagined. And I only vaguely remember my plans--how clear and sure they seemed for a moment, and how they changed with the wind. God's plans were not mine, but they were so much better.

And even as I say those words to you, I know you don't fully understand. You will have to learn this in your own way, as God destroys your own plans and remakes them for you, for your good; as He proves His faithfulness and goodness to you, over and over again as you grow up in Christ.

And He will grow me up, too, so that someday I can let you go away from me, and deeper into Him.

I hope I get a front row seat, even eleven more years from now.

I can hardly imagine how lovely you will be then, dear daughter. God is doing a beautiful work in You.   
May He shower His goodness on you in the years to come.

....and also, keep dancing.



Monday, February 17, 2014

Dear expectant mommy,

Dear expectant mommy,

Yesterday my three-year-old climbed up on my lap, and without hestiation or shyness, he made himself at home. He curled up, tailbone digging into one of my thighs, heels in the other, and lay his head on my chest. Then, he looked up with annoyance, “Mama, I don’t like your hair.” He brushed the my hair from my shoulders, making sure it was all behind me. “There, I like it in the back.”

I consented, and wrapped his blanket around him as he got settled. But no, he didn’t want to lay his head on my shoulder as I suggested. “Mama, I want your pillows,” and he boldly fluffed up my breasts, and finally, he found the perfect spot for his head.

And this is no longer strange to me, though I remember long ago when my body was my own. They used to be my “pillows,” and only mine. I used to have “personal space,” and privacy, too.

“My life is yours, and my body is yours,’ I said, and he said, and we became husband and wife. And love filled our home and life filled my womb, and nothing would ever be the same.

I remember those first thrilling kicks. And I remember how those feet pushed down and up and out, and toes seemed to curl up under my ribcage, and I could do nothing to escape the uncomfortable jabs. It’s odd, the way even a begged-for pregnancy felt a bit like an invasion. Each twinge of pain a reminder: your body is not your own.

Have you realized this yet? And have you found yourself to be good at sharing? Are you bursting with life, and overcome with cheerful giving?

Let me tell you a secret: I think sharing my body is terribly, incredibly difficult. I wanted it to be easy. Because I welcomed motherhood and loved my baby, I thought it woudl be easy. But I found myself to be much more selfish than I had ever realized. If the baby’s spontaneous sommersaulting was shocking, much more shocking was the rebellion in my heart. Yes, I want to be a mother. No, I do not want to sacrifice my entire body, my space, my sleep, my life to this end.

5 a.m. and another cry, and I grit my teeth, whispering “You’ve got to be kidding me,” and I glare at my sleeping husband. My nights are not my own. My body is not my own. My heart is much too small for this job.

Motherhood will teach you this over and over again: You must give yourself. It’s hard. You can’t do it. Your heart is too small.

Try not to be shocked, someday, when you find yourself throwing a fit like a baby, with a baby. You will not always give of yourself cheerfully.

But Jesus has given himself to you, and that makes all the difference.

Your body is not your own, and your heart is to small for this job. However, the same God who made your body, who made that little baby, has your heart in His hands. He will use your hands to bless your child, despite you, despite your unwilling heart. And as your child grows, He will cause your heart to stretch even more than your belly has stretched.

He will finish the good work in you which He has begun.

Thank God.
You are not your own.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Still talking about depression...

It seems this winter will never end.

The birds fight for seed outside my window, and I like watching them.  I point out the “daddy cardinal” and the chickadee to my son, like my parents once did for me.  

The birds have conflicts: we laugh. They do not make me solve their spats. I’m not responsible for enforcing fairness and teaching kindness in the bird world.  Birds are so light.

Children are.. heavy.

And the snow lays heavy, and cold.

And I haven’t written much about depression lately, because I feel like I will merely repeat the same things. And yet, that mom inspired me to write this post. Because even when there’s nothing new to say, I ought not be silent. Because we need each other to keep talking.

My friends who understand ask, “How are you feeling?” and I tell them “meh,” and they understand.  Some days are light, some are oppressive, unbearably heavy.

I spoke to a local mom’s group on the “Five Love Languages” recently, and I couldn’t give a talk like that without a special word on depression. Because I know what wonderful parenting advice sounds like to depressed ears.  And I could imagine a mom listening feeling like I have felt-- someone who loves her children, truly, but whose body or mind refuses to act out, or even feel that love.

It might look like this: You know your child needs a little quality time, so you gather the supplies and (you hope) the patience to do a craft.  By the time the craft is finished, you are near tears.

And you think your child can only conclude this: Mommy hates crafts, and probably me, too.

Depression can twist those good intentions and make them angry, sad, ugly.  And parenting advice just sounds like more evidence of failure, more things to add to the list of “Hard Facts that Prove I am a Terrible Human Being.”

So I spoke to that mom, and I said what others have said to me:

Depression is awful.
I understand.
Say it out loud.
Lean on others.
See your doctor.
God is stable even when we are not.

It is good to remind myself and others of these simple things.  Yes, I am still struggling, some days more than others. I wish I was writing a victory post, one that contained the secret I finally discovered for ending this struggle.  But instead, I am what I am. Still weak, still loved.

It feels like this winter will never end.
But I see no reason to trust those feelings, not when there is so much evidence to the contrary.  

Spring will come, and Christ is Risen.  

Lord, help us to remember that this life is not about being perfectly happy, nor it is about being well.  It is about waiting in hope for You to fulfill all things.

It may be very cold here, while we wait.  It may be too dark to get much done, at least, for a season.  It may be time to curl up in a nest of blankets, drink tea, and simply... wait.

Wait for the warmth of spring to dawn.
While you wait, make your nest in His strong promises.

I’ve been curling up in the book of Peter again lately.  

Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Did you cause your birth? Or Jesus’ resurrection? Or your rebirth? No. These are not flimsy human works, but works of God Himself, and THIS is our hope.

to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Read that part again, and notice all the firm words, the strong, unshakable words. These things are solid and stable, by the grace of God, even when you are not.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now, for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials…
(1 Peter 1:3-6)

In this we rejoice, even when joy seems impossible. 

We rejoice in the hope, the certain hope, of spring, of the lifting of our burdens, of freedom from depression and sin and grief everything that weighs us down.

Until then, we wait.

I am waiting with you, friend.
This winter will not last forever.


For more: 

Nest comic
Everyone should see this- especially those of you who love someone who wrestles with depression. 

*that* mom
A kindred spirit on depression

Depression (more of my posts)
click here for the archive

If you are struggling and have never said it out loud, please say it to someone today.

And if you are somebody's someone, remember that there is great comfort in your loving presence, and soft blankets.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Art Therapy

It started with a little act of kindness from my son.

It was one of those nights... when I ran out before bedtime. It was a night of "Sorry, kids, I know I said I'd read to you but I just... can't. I'll be in the bathtub."  And they didn't mind, especially since I let them watch an extra cartoon.

Then, right there in the bathtub, I got a special delivery:

"I hope you feal better soon." From PIGEON- one of my favorite characters EVER!

No, I did not correct his spelling.  
Instead I hung it up, and every time I see it, it makes me smile like crazy. 
We love all the books by Mo Willems, and I also love seeing the creativity in my budding artist.

A few days later, we were faced with another snow day. 
Another. Snow. Day.

Another opportunity for family bonding.
Another chance to exercise all of my stress-coping strategies in a single hour.

So, I decided to follow the example set by my son.
For the kids, it was craft time. For mama, it was art therapy.

And the kids' reaction, 

We gathered every one of our Mo Willems books for inspiration.  Some traced, some drew.  The crayon that was "pigeon color" was nearly used up.

It felt good to express my frustrations.

And make the kids roll their eyes: 

Lorraine reminded me that she's excited for her birthday sleepover.

Aggie drew a scene from her favorite book:

And Seth was irritated with the kids playing in the hot tub, so he drew this and hung it up in the window where they could see it.

We ended up with a shrine to Mo Willems! 

And it makes me smile :)

This was definitely one of our healthier coping mechanisms.

What are you doing to survive this never-ending winter?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Recommended posts

I have nothing of my own to share with you today... I've been doing more listening and resting than writing lately, and I think that is as it should be.

I thought you might enjoy these posts from around the web. Leave me a comment if you have thoughts to share!

Love and marraige

To Wives: Before you were "Mommy"

10 Marriage tips every wife needs to hear
5 questions husbands should ask their wives
and also...
5 questions wives should NOT ask their husbands

Kids getting bigger

Please read this one.

Would that be Okay?
What if your kid grows up to be average?

How to raise a pagan kid in a Christian Home
Pagan kids, part 2

On seeing a woman
When a father noticed his son noticing...


If you've ever regretted a little vulnerability
Because sometimes, life is just hard. It is OK to say that!

On quitting social media
I think I'm going to quit quitting.

20 weeks pregnant with twins and she had an abortion
Lord have mercy

The River of Knives and Wombs
It is prepared for you.  And God knows you need it.  For all you have prepared for yourself is destruction. 

Pastor in Uniform


Things that time cannot mend...

Time does not heal all wounds

The courage to rest
In a state of overwhelm? Read this.  It inspired me to rethink everything.

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