A Knowing Story

On the morning I knew, there wasn’t much time to stop and think too hard about what it meant. We were supposed to meet friends bright and early (earlier than any of us liked) earlier than was really reasonable for this mama who loves a slow morning. The whole world was still quiet and dark, hinting at rain, so I let the big girls sleep, and I sat with the thought of you.

Time dripped past too quickly. I’d decided to miss our friends, and go alone to the field instead, just us three. The girls were up and they threw on whatever they could find. Walking towards the door the sky broke loose. We waited another half an hour, talking and eating sourdough bread, prepping the loaves to bake later.

In the car we looked for good music, still waiting on the rain to quit. Mama found a 90’s station, and the girls laughed as I sang my heart out to TLC and “I’ll Be.” The organic blueberry field is six minutes from our house, and it feels like not another soul knows about it. The only company we had were a handful of stray cats which kept my youngest busy while she picked (and then ate) all eight of her berries.

Sadie and I worked hard to fill the freezer for winter, to have lots of extra for making blueberry butter to can with friends later – our very first time canning! It was hot and muggy and misty. We were dressed in boots and long pants and began shedding layers as the sun rose higher. When they whined about the heat or the quiet we sang songs to keep our minds as busy as our hands. I took pictures of the blueberries and the after-storm clouds in the sky, of my growing girls working alongside me, and I thought of you.

You see, I had waited, prayed, hoped, cried out to heaven for you. I’d imagined you. And maybe, here you were? The line was so faint I couldn’t tell if I was imagining it. But the next day it would be crystal clear. You were coming. And baby, we were so ready.

A good friend of mine said that the thing about being pregnant is that every single day is a huge investment. There’s a person on it’s way, and it doesn’t matter that it’s a year from now, because you know that they’re coming. You changed the entire landscape of my days, and it happened fast.

And then there was a morning when I knew that you weren’t. I wasn’t ready for it. How can you be ready for the end of a life that’s just beginning?

A deep quiet pain filled that tiny seed-sized hole. You were so incredibly small. We didn’t even know your name. I never felt you move. So how can it hurt this much to say goodbye? It’s the memories we already had of you – the blueberry fields, telling your big sisters, the icecream and sharing of our joy – there’s that loss. And then there’s the loss of who you could have been to us. Sadie said, “I’ll never know what kind of games we would have played.” How would you have felt about your sisters? What would you have liked to eat? Silly things maybe, but things that make up a life together. I hadn’t known how much life we had to offer you. How beautiful it was to be one of ours. And now I do. Now I know what a gift these sisters are. How clever and kind and honest- an articulate emotional masterpiece your biggest sister is. And that little one is so gentle and motherly, ready to keep you safe and kiss your toes and read you stories. You would have had a great time, Little Pea. You would have really liked it here with us.

I’m still sort of shocked by the depth of this pain, and I want to put it on paper. That’s why I’m here writing it all down where everyone can see it. Because how is it that you can love a speck in your stomach so deeply? And if I loved it so deeply, if my children and husband loved it so deeply, what must the Creator feel for each one of these tiny little lives – the wanted and the unwanted alike?

If we, being good mothers and fathers would wish only good for our children, how magnificently otherwordly His love must be toward each and every one of us. He knows the names we don’t know, the stories that won’t be. He knows the pain I feel, and even knowing it – He handed us His Baby, His Jesus. Who is this One real, living, breathing, speaking God? How does love get that big?

Oh, how it must hurt to love the world.

But He looks down on all of this- the stinking broken mess we’ve made and He says “Worth it.” I want each one. I’ll take the impossible pain to make it possible for them to have life. I said last night that if I knew I would have to walk through this again, I don’t think I would willingly choose to do it. That I would rather not get pregnant at all than lose the baby. But I don’t think I mean it. It’s the potential for relationship that makes it worthwhile to try. And it’s that very potential for relationship that drove the Creator to craft creatures out of nothing, not machines with no options, but real flesh and blood returners-of-love. He made us knowing full well that we’d spit in His face, knowing that He would have to die to make us whole. Love died to get to me. And He would do it again in a heartbeat.

No, love is not a waste of time. It is really the only way to un-waste the time we’ve been given. Love Himself is the gift and the treasure and the point of it all.

You see Him now, Little Pea, but even though I do not see Him, I love Him too. And one day soon our Abba will right every single wrong.

And you and I baby- we will get our together.

The Best We Can Hope For

Forgiveness is really the best any of us can hope for.

And that’s only because perfection isn’t really an option, right? I mean, if I’m being honest (feel free to be honest along with me) my hope most days – as a mother, a wife, a friend, a homemaker, a Daughter of the King, as a person – is be as perfect as possible. Which is hilarious because only crazy people chase after a thing that they can’t ever actually catch… right?

It’s pretty jarring when you actually look it in the face, and it’d be cute to tell you that this obsession with perfection is a product of a difficult childhood (some of it is, yeah sure), or to just pretend like it’s not constantly trying to hijack my parenting or my peace, but apart from good old fashioned self-reflection and confession there is no real possibility of change. And change is what I’m after.

Also hilarious: how the jolt into motherhood makes certain things very clear very fast. One minute I’m working hard to bring this baby girl here, and the next she’s on my chest screaming loudly, wriggly, and soaking wet. I am immediately convinced of two things: (1) this is not about me, and (2) I want to do this perfectly.

Which brings us right back to the problem of chasing after perfect motherhood. And I think it inherently comes from a place of instinct, a super-naturally planted desire to protect this tiny person you’ve just been handed, a recognition of the weight that comes with the title of “mom.” And then the weight gets bent and our prides pokes its head out, winks at us arrogantly. Stand back world, I’ve got this one.

It’s only through the growing side-by-side that we realize how wrong we were, how impossible perfection actually is. Those first nine months of making room for each other are nothing compared to the first nine years. I age and she ages. I learn and she learns. I hurt her and she hurts me. I fail. Is this what I signed up for?

Human relationship? Painful? Yup.

If children are “natural born persons” as Charlotte Mason says, and you just welcomed one into your life, you can bet that there will be plenty of room for heartbreak, and if you’re lucky plenty of opportunity to ask for forgiveness.

I remember the moment that I found out we would have a second baby girl, and the thrill at realizing that my first baby was getting a SISTER. And then the panic that surged up hot immediately after that when I realized that my daughters would undoubtedly hurt each other, maybe even a lot. They’d have a whole lifetime together after all. I hadn’t even gotten up from my seat in the doctor’s office when these thoughts came crashing down on me one after another. Someone I love is going to get hurt.

To be human is to be in constant need of forgiveness. It’s just kind of part of the deal this side of heaven. The trick is to make friends with this need, to see it not as a weakness, but as a gift.

In order to see it as a gift, you need to put your pride down (just put it down, Mama), and pick up the cross, the visible image of both our lack and His longing for us.

I know this sounds like the hardest thing in the world (Jesus called it DYING to yourself, so yeah that kind of hurts), but if you’ll choose to put your imperfections front and center in your relationship with your children it will actually make everything better. It is giving them the gift of truth. They need to know (i.e. to experience, to witness) that we need Jesus too. And if we’re not comfortable with our need, how on earth can we expect them to do this very hard thing called “dying.”

What they don’t need is a mom who is going to single-handedly raise beautiful kids, make beautiful meals, and live a beautiful life. When we attempt to shove our imperfection into the nearest junk drawer, we communicate to our children that grace is something to be ashamed of, that it’s a last ditch attempt to salvage perfection on the rare occasion that you can’t hack it.

This is not truth. And, dear ones, don’t we want our homes to reek of truth? Don’t we want them to reek of the glorious gospel of grace?

Grace is as vital to my Tuesday afternoon as oxygen is – without one I don’t get the other. Grace is the privilege we get to celebrate every single second, third, fourth, and fifth chance we get to try to love each other better. Grace is rejoicing in our deep need for a Good God that came to us when we needed Him most, that stays with us and dwells with us even now, knowing exactly who and what we are. He is not scared of our imperfections. In fact they drove Him towards us, not away.

And it’s Love Himself who teaches us how to mother best. He teaches us how to look sin in the face, douse it with the radical forgiveness of a Faithful God, and then nail it to a tree.

“Love keeps no record of being wronged…” (1 Cor. 13:5)

What if we actually didn’t?

What if we gave and accepted forgiveness as often as we needed to, without exceptions or excuses or cold-shoulders.

What if perfection was never designed to set us free?

Only dependence on Love can do that.

The Right to Play

Social media is abuzz right now with phrases like slowing down, simplifying, and getting back to the basics. Heck, even the homes with the most “likes” are trending towards natural fabrics and neutral hues. Many of my all-time favorite Instagram accounts portray a slow and sacred lifestyle, a lifestyle that I crave. I crave a life lived celebrating beauty everywhere I go, a life where I create beauty with my own two hands. I crave nature and an intimate connection to it. I crave genuine relationships with my kids, and memories that last. (I do not crave several hues of white throughout my home, but that’s another post).

But have you noticed how easy it is to be “adult” in our pursuit of these very worthy things; how easy it is to make all the right choices externally, and miss the actual living of life entirely?

My point is this: you can simplify your wardrobe, throw out all of your unnecessary belongings, and only wear cotton dresses, and still be the kind of person who can’t make eye contact with her kids for an extended period of time. You can simultaneously snap a photo of your family backpacking through a state park, and spend the whole trip sifting through your phone instead of looking and truly seeing what’s around you. You can build a glass palace of curated squares on social media, and hide your misery behind it. Ask me how I know…

I am – if I’m honest – a mom who avoids playing like it’s the plague. I try to be a “yes” mom. My kids will probably even tell you that I’m a fun mom. But I know just how hard I have to wrestle internally to cross the line between navigating motherhood like it’s all-business and mothering like I’m truly alive.

It takes an absurd amount of energy to muster ten solid minutes of getting down on my kid’s level, in barefaced form, ready for gut-busting laughter should the opportunity present itself. You too?

What I want to know is, why?

Is it a personal thing or a generational thing? Have adults been so brainwashed into believing that play is a waste of time – or how about, that wasting time is a waste of time – that they are missing the gold right beneath their feet. Every single time without exception that I genuinely let myself join them in their honest pursuit of enjoying a thing, it’s like a buoying up that I didn’t know I needed. I was sinking and I couldn’t tell.

And yet, I fight it. In some measure, at least for me, this is a sticky stuck-on bit of my past that just will not let go of my ankles. When my daughter asked my husband why I had a difficult time playing, he said, “because it was raised out of her, Buddy. She needs you to teach her how to do it again.”

And last night when we got in from our walk/bike-ride down the street sitting around a very late dinner of salad and soup with unwashed hands and sweaty summer faces, my oldest said, “isn’t it sad that today will never happen again?”

What must it be like to live so hard that you’ll miss today when it’s over?

I intend to find out. Even if it takes me another 32 years to do it.

I’ve already got the best tutor around. All I need to do is pay attention.

Good Medicine

Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

This place is full of fog. One moment I’m blissfully lost in the mystery of what could be next. It could be anything, really. Things are shifting and changing. My baby is almost five years old, and this homemaker life comes with so much room for ingenuity and flexibility. What an incredible gift to have so many options! I plan, I scheme, I dream, I check books out from the library. And the next moment, I can’t see where I’m going. I can’t see two feet in front of me. The not-knowing is the only thing that I know. Where are you taking me, Jesus? Why don’t I know? What is this time for?

As the sun sleeps longer each day, the girls come in from playing more quickly, and the whole world seems to be settling down. All I want to do is join the world in rest. We decide to start Advent a full week early. My brother is marrying my best friend next week anyway (two days after Thanksgiving). They’re leaving the country to serve and love the broken world. Life is moving. Minutes are dripping past. I can’t catch them. And I don’t know what this time is for.

Or maybe I do know, and the trouble is that I don’t want to do it: the waiting.

None of this is what I thought I would be doing. It’s not visible enough, glamorous enough, worthy of acknowledgement. There is no platform or applause for those who wipe butts and teach children good habits day in and day out. The better I am at “my job,” the more tuned-in I am to being present, the less those things are seen, the smaller it feels like I get. I’m not 100% comfortable with the enneagram, but I did brush by it and apparently I’m that number that likes to be noticed, that wants to be thanked and seen and rewarded, that wants to be the best at what I’m doing. No surprise there (for me or for Jesus). Motherhood then, is a series of tiny intentional deaths to that attention-hungry woman, the one I am most practiced at being. She doesn’t fancy being invisible.

Death is uncomfortable. No one volunteers for the electric chair. And this isn’t heroic “take me instead” stuff I’m talking about either, this is the kind of choosing others that no one even knows about. It’s choosing not to yell when your child has a sensory fit and chucks her shoes at your head. It’s choosing to model infinite and immediate forgiveness even when you really don’t feel like it. It’s one hundred thousand patient replies to impatient tiny people with bad attitudes.

Trying to describe the place I’ve been in, I said to my husband that it’s almost like I’m floating above my life, watching and waiting for something to happen. He tells me that I have permission to move (in case I needed it), to take a step in one direction and see what it feels like, see if it fits or falls apart; that it’s okay not to know exactly where I’m headed. So I write a little bit. I wait a little bit. I cry (because that’s how I handle frustration). And because the Voice that I trust seems unusually quiet.

Or is it just that I can’t stand what He’s asking me to do? To get low. To stay low. To pull in, settle down, and let go.

Yesterday I opened up to a devotional by Elisabeth Elliot where she talked about indecision and she said that “the remedy for [indecision] is trust.” She quoted the book of James and said that we should ask for wisdom if we don’t know what to do, “But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind; and every decision you then make will be uncertain, as you turn first this way and then that. If you don’t ask with faith, don’t expect the Lord to give you any solid answer.” (James 1:6-8 LB)

I know a good piece of advice when I hear it. So I asked expectantly, desperate to put a cap on this restlessness and move forward. We finished with lessons for the day, and though the sky looked pretty mild and sunny, I was definitely resisting the pull to take the girls outside. It’s that part of the year where leaving your cozy place by the fire is painful. We were talking about beauty and finding it all around us, and I wanted to have them put together pinecone birdfeeders so I thought we’d go look for some. I followed them out into the open air. The squirrels hadn’t left us much to work with, but the fallen trees in the creek were covered in bright fluffy mosses and crusty layers of lichen. I followed my Biggest Girl into a tight spot, maybe a small deer path, new to our feet. We squirmed through briars and ducked under thin branches around and through and back up until we realized we were close to home again. I followed them and waited and just listened, so ready to receive, humbled by how little I had to offer these beautiful girls on this late fall morning.

When we got back up to the house with our treasures and stories The Big One goes, “You know Mom, This is just like Pinocchio – that part where he doesn’t want to take the medicine because it tastes bitter, or he thinks it’ll be bitter, but than he does take it and it’s really good and he feels stronger? This is good medicine, Mama. Even though it was hard to get ourselves to want to come out here, it was such good medicine. I think we should make it part of our routine.”

She is wise. We pile everything up on the table, spread colors and paints everywhere, and I did what I don’t normally do. I forgot about the dishes and laundry and dreaming and aching for something else. I lost myself sitting next to my girls, creating something beautiful side-by-side.

Something is happening here even if I can’t see it. It is safe to surrender myself (and even my questions) to the moment that I find myself in because the Keeper of my moments can see right through the fog. If He wanted me elsewhere, He would pick me up and plant me there. If I am here, there must be something right here that is worthwhile. Even if that something is learning how to let go of my life; even if it means learning how to die.