Friday, September 23, 2016

Kiddo, Will You Pray for Me?


To be fair, mothers, I don’t think this is entirely our fault, this tendency to think we are the Ultimate Need Meeters for our families and children. Our job starts out this way.

As an expectant mother, my tiny child really is 100% dependent on me, and I am 100% required for his or her survival. The weight of it is on me, and there is nobody that can pick that job up for me, even for one minute, to give me a break.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

meeting with grandma (creative writing exercise)


We’re at a kitchen table, but it’s not the one she always used. It could never seat all of them- grandpa, and their eight children. It’s the small table, in the condo, from the days when her life shrank down to smallness and the children were grown, after the neighborhood went bad and they moved where things were safer and someone else mowed the lawn.  It’s probably not her favorite table. How could it be?

Why did grandma choose to meet me here, of all places?  If I got to come back from heaven for a moment to visit a granddaughter, I imagine I’d meet her someplace wonderful, somewhere I’d made a great memory.  But here were are, meeting at the little kitchen table in the condo from the days when her life got small.

She has hair again, but it is gray, and her skin is a little wrinkled. Her smile is radiant, and I have the sense that she is merely wearing something like old age, but not quite; as if she is toning down her beauty for my sake.

Grandma has something for me inside a bag.  It’s just what I need, she says with a small smile. I cannot imagine what it could be. Can you put a nap inside a bag? Or patience, or courage?  She sets the bag on the table. It is so good to see her again.  

“I can’t carry anything from eternity to you, dear. If I could, I would give you the fruit that tastes like a sunrise, and the words to the songs that we sing around the throne, and you would eat and we would sing, and He would pour out so much healing and life that you would never grow old, never grieve, never ache in your soul ever again.  But the time for that is not yet.”

Her radiant face becomes serious, and something like sadness, but not quite, fills her eyes. “No, not yet. You have darkness to travel through yet, dear. And days of smallness.  And you will fight it and grieve the changes, but that is as it should be.  God will do His work in you and for you, and that is what matters.”

She opens the bag, and inside I see it: a flower.

“Do you remember when you were small and we would go for walks in the woods by the cottage? I loved the way you held my hand and chatted about every little thing. I remember teaching you to watch for this special flower: trillium. It was a rare flower, illegal to pick, but it grew in our little corner of the woods. I always liked to look for it, and to teach you little ones to appreciate it and respect it.”

I took the flower from her hand. That’s it? I thought.  A flower for a vase for a week, then the smell of rotting plant, then garbage and another dish to clean?

She read my thoughts. “Yes, the flower will die, it is not from the New World. But you will have the memory, and with it, the promise from our Lord: He is making all things new.  Trillium is rare in this life, and special... like those moments with your children as they grow, they bloom for a moment and then they are gone forever. I know you feel this way.” Tears came quickly to my eyes. “But it only seems to be this way, dear. He is making ALL things new!  I wish I could describe to you the trillium in the new place: our Father makes even this flower more beautiful, and somehow more unique and precious and abundant, all at once!”

She traced her fingers along the table. “It is ok to let go, dear, and to move on to the next season. No, it is not ‘safe,’ not in the way you think of it- there will be trials and dangers and real suffering.  The things that pass away are really gone… for a time. But Jesus!  He is there with your family around your noisy table, right in the thick of the the homework battles and the ‘do I really have to eat this?’  And daughter, when life changes again, when your table is small, He will be there with you and the quiet cup of coffee.”

“Don’t you see?  He gives all of this- it was all His idea! Each baby-bump, each first-day-of-school, each springtime and every trillium that blooms in this dying world: these are His good gifts, given for a time, given so that you could learn to love and trust the hands that give.  Trust the hands that give, the hands that bled for you. He knows what you need, and He is making all things new.”

And suddenly the moment was gone, and I was back in my kitchen, where the floors are crunchy and the counters are sticky and the table is huge.  

Wait! Grandma!? There are so many other things I wanted to ask! What did you do about tantrums and curfews and bad grades and sports?  Will the kids be ok? How did you survive the teen years? What would you have done differently? Does it all work out in the end? Will you hug grandpa for me?  

But the moment was gone.  And I was alone with the memory of a flower.

And Jesus.

(a writing exercise inspired by Voice and Vessel)


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Peter's six!


To Peter, on your sixth birthday-

Wow. What a year you’ve been through!  Last year at this time, our lives were still full of walks to the pond, and visits to the cows, and mornings with the Vandercars.  Last year at this time, I was sending you off to kindergarten, three days a week. I thought that was going to be our big adjustment!  And then God sent us a call, and before we knew it, we were packing up the house, taking you out of school at White Creek, and moving to the city!  A new school, new friends, new routines, new everything- that had to be so much for your five-year-old self to process!  

I remember you sobbed the hardest on that rainy day when we pulled away from the only home you had ever known.  You are an Indiana baby, a country boy!  We shared quite a few tears and snuggles along the way.  Like you, I was sad for many things we left behind, but it has been a joy to watch the ways God has provided for us.

In Eastpointe, I got to see you meet a whole new group of kindergarteners. You grew to love Mrs. Schilling, and Addison Skurda quickly became your new best friend.  You learned to rock every-day kindergarten, and before I knew it you were reading and even taking AR tests!  In the winter you played Pee Wee basketball, and I got to be your coach!   You even weigh slightly more than Eldon- something that causes you great joy and him great annoyance. You gloat, “I’m half a thing bigger to you Eldon!” and try get him to weigh himself daily so you can compare. He “hates the scale” and refuses to get on it now!  

In the spring we bought a boat.  You and I were both pretty unsettled by the size of the waves on the big lake. While the other kids hooted and hollered and cheered, you and I would be snuggling in the back, hoping we wouldn’t die, saying a prayer or two or ten.  Every time we went out on the boat and didn’t die, we became a tiny bit more confident, and by the end of the summer you and I were not only cheering on the big waves, but tubing behind the boat, and loving it!  And you amaze us with your super-napping powers- you can nap on the boat through the roughest seas!

Your birthday weekend will be full of family: Uncle Quinn and Aunt Sara are staying with us, Flannery in utero. Grammy and Bump brought the camper and your cousin Izzy and Lorraine’s friend Kathryn. You were so happy to get a  whoopie cusion and a Snack-eeze (star wars), tons of candy, and a Paw Patrol backpack. You are wearing it to first grade, where you are rockin’ the academics, and being chased by the girls at recess.  

The night before your birthday I snuggled you close and said, “Goodbye five, I will miss you.”
“I won’t miss five,” you said, and I was not surprised.
“I will, but I am excited to see you six.”
Goodnight, five, and welcome, six!  
We love you Peter!

Friday, September 2, 2016

goodnight, five.

Tonight, I said goodnight to five for the last time.
Tomorrow, my youngest boy turns six.

Goodnight, five, and goodbye five.
I curled up next to his pajama’d body and said a nice, long, goodnight and goodbye.

Goodnight, five,and goodbye to the days of
packing a blankie and buddy for rest time at school,
and learning to tie shoes.

Goodbye to the magical moment of I-can-read;
that miracle of letters on a page making sounds that magically form a familiar word!

Goodbye to the days of first backpack and first lunchbox and first play date with a school friend.

I rubbed his back and said goodbye to five, slowly, gently.
And the goodbye-fives turned into goodbye-everything-little as I thought about our preschool days and baby days.

Goodbye bringing babies home from hospitals,
and tiny new outfits, and milk-snuggles.
Goodbye teethers and days of dumping out toys and chewing on everything.

Goodbye strollers and baby-on-the-hip;
Goodbye afternoon naps with a baby plastered to my side;
Goodbye days spent in a blur of exhaustion and goodbye just trying to keep everybody alive.

Suddenly he whispered, “are you asleep mama?” and turned over to face me. “No, honey,” I said, “not yet.”

I’m too busy saying goodbyes.

Goodbye five, and less-than-five.
God help me embrace six, and more-than-six, too.  
I hid my tears and held him close.
He turned over again and let out a little fart.

He pulled his minion blanket up over his shoulder, made sure my arm was around his waist, and sighed.  He resigned to sleep, passing gently into the next stage of his life, fearless, and at peace.

Goodnight, five.


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