Friday, November 6, 2015

For the promised morning, oh how long?

My neck is bent over to the side awkwardly and a small fuzzy headed baby is snoring softly into my ear. I'm lingering over post-bedtime snuggles with my youngest. He is decidedly a mama's boy, and I am 1000% ok with that.

This past year has been both one of the sweetest and hardest years we've had since we became parents, the second time- not the first. Our days are full, loud, messy and unapologetically ordinary. I could write for days about the complexities, the contradictions, the messiness of being a bereaved mom.

But I'm drawn back here to write about my first son, the one who would be eight this Sunday. The one whose absence stretches over everything- to quote someone much more eloquent than me.
The son I can't hear snoring or hold in my arms. The one who made me a mom, though I never experienced motherhood with him how I longed to. The one my arms ache to hold, the one I think of every time someone asks me how many children I have or when we take a family picture.
The missing one. Our first son.

This grief is a sacred thing... a beautiful, rich, hope-filled part of us.

With a five year old, a two year old and a newly one year old baby, this year has looked different from years past. There are no long pauses of quiet rest or reflection on the boy who would be eight.
Stitched into our life, our days, is a fabric worn soft with brokenness and held together by hope.

And it is so beautiful.


Monday, July 20, 2015

the hope we have

After Owen died, we went into survival mode. There weren’t very many plans made or at least none that I made. I had no energy for anything except my grief. We lived, breathed and ate our grief. It was everywhere and in everything; in the clear blue skies outside our window, the sounds of children playing down the street, the grocery store. Nothing was innocuous. Everything was a reminder of what was lost.

I’m not going to say it was the right way to do things or that we were wrong either. It was just the way we chose to grieve. I’m not even really sure it was a conscious choice, but it was how we did things nonetheless. God has been gracious to us in our grieving, no matter if it was right or wrong. Seven years and eight months later, we are growing in grace, in acceptance and healing. But complete healing and acceptance won’t come until Jesus comes back and because of this we grieve as well. We have to wait.

This is our Father’s world and one day, he will renew all things here. He will make all things right. 

After Owen died it was hard for me to care about anything. I just wanted to be with my baby. Honestly, I just wanted to die too. A year after his death and after losing two more precious ones to miscarriage, I started writing here. Writing on this blog has been so cathartic for me, so healing. I have felt my hands loosen around the dream of what could have been, and have let my heart feel the hope of what is to come. 

As the years have passed, some slowly and painfully, and others rather quickly, I have begun to see this living as more than just a waiting. 

There is still waiting- waiting for our Jesus to come back- but there is so much more to living. Living means we still have a purpose on this earth. A mission...

But what is the mission? Doing good things? Being good people?

I am thankful it is so much more than that... making known who God is as we know Him better and deeper, and caring about what God cares about. His people, His creation, His glory.

Praise the Lord he is so abounding in patience, in mercy, in faithfulness, and in love. He will never abandon us, never let us go. 
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 
In the dark, scary, unknown places we can trust him... 
oh, the hope we have. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

This parenting thing

These days with three kids... many weeks pass by with such urgency... get the two year old up before she starts screaming, make breakfast, drink coffee, fix ten snacks, get everybody dressed, drink coffee, change two diapers, make the grocery list, run to the store, get the diapers washed and hung up to dry, drink coffee, pick up the toys scattered on the floor, throw in a load of laundry, eat eat eat, vacuum all the crumbs night after night, three songs, a prayer, tuck into bed, lights out, and count the hours in my head until the baby will wake to eat, and start the day all over again.

It isn't only the daily tasks, the sheer work load of raising three kids that is draining. It isn't just that I don't sit idle or rest at all anymore. It isn't how my house is never clean anymore, or that I spent most of my time making food and then cleaning it up.

It is the constant worry.... Am I listening enough? Am I paying attention? Am I present with them right now? Do they know I love them even when I get impatient and grumpy and frustrated? Am I generous with my time and energy and emotions?

Is it enough? Is it enough??

Am I enough?

Our precious five year old has started to worry about things. She fixates on something and asks over and over if a feeling or a thought will go away. She asks why she needs to go potty all the time. She
worries that her hands will always feel sticky. She looks at me, eyes wide and teary, and asks why she worries about everything all the time. I cry with her, knowing deep down this struggle she feels.

I worry too.

Today before rest time, we read Matthew 6 together. I let the words wash over me... like a fetter I felt my heart anchor to the truth. Why do I worry all the time?

Because I forget Jesus.
Because I forget so easily what is true, what is real, what will never change.

This parenting thing? It is more than I ever dreamed.
It is more work, more tiring, more rewarding, more worry filled, more amazing than I could have

My heart has doubled... it has tripled, and it is bigger each day as it grows to hold all the love, all the worry, all the desires I have for these precious babies the Lord has given us.

I feel stretched in ways I didn't think I could be stretched, and I am called every day to trust the Lord in ways I don't want to... in ways I thought I could leave behind when we finally brought our precious 4 lb baby home from the hospital.
I thought the worry, the questioning, the doubt and fear would fall away after we brought Hannah Mae home after 35 weeks of stress and fear. But it hasn't. It hasn't, and it is a daily battle.

Oh, my heart. But He is enough.

He is enough. His Word is enough. His atonement is enough. His grace is enough. He is enough. 

He is enough. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

to my heart

when tears come
let them fall
like rain washing
like truth telling.

your worry, your fears,
your pain.
this weakness we feel
in our bones

there is beauty in your vulnerability,
in your tenderness
there lies your strength.

Run, my daughter, run
fly free, fast.
your feet are ready,
strong and brave.

there is no shame
in wanting
nor despise in need.

we stand with you
with tears, with hope.
there will come redemption,
and joy... joy comes in the morning.

fly free, fast
your feet are ready
strong and brave.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A prologue of sorts

I suppose the most natural place to start is at the beginning. But like most beginnings, this one starts at the end of something.

Chapter 1

The morning is unusually cold. Early spring air blows in gently through the open window and I shiver under the thick green blanket. Looking down, I take in the ratty wool blanket tucked in around me. Stephen must have come to my rescue after I opened the front window in my haste to get fresh air. This blanket is a true testament of my love for my darling husband. Under no circumstances other than love would I keep such an impractical and scratchy eyesore of a blanket. We hardly need such a heavy blanket where we live, but Stephen insists on keeping it around. And I do love my husband, I sigh contentedly. 

I love having the windows open when I sleep, hearing the nightly routine of nature float in as I fall asleep, or try to sleep I note grumpily. Even in the middle of summer in our hot southern home I love throwing open the windows in the middle of the night. The soft chirping of birds and crickets act as a mid-summer’s night lullaby to my sleepy ears, and the steady whir of the overhead fan lulls me to sleep.
Shifting uncomfortably on the couch, I wonder how long I’ve been asleep. As my eyes flutter open a sudden panic overwhelms me. The clock on the fireplace ticks a soft rhythm, but the rapid beating of my heart pounds in my ears. It is five thirty in the morning. My breathing turns uneven as I try in vain to calm down. Breathing deeply I turn over on my back and look up at the creamy white ceiling above me. I feel as if I’ve had a lovely daydream interrupted by a nightmare. The old grandfather clock Stephen and I found on an early morning yard sale spree ticks louder. But that must be my imagination, I reason. The ticking of the clock is always the same rhythm, the same volume. It is as dependable as my father’s homecoming at six o’clock every weekday evening. You could set a watch to my father. His routine never varied from week to week, and I remember waiting impatiently for his return each night, dragging my schoolbooks out to the front porch in an effort to appease my mother as I waited.  
I shift heavily on the couch and look out the wide front window of our living room. The breeze is lazily floating in past the curtains that I drew back late last night in an effort to cool the room quickly. I hear the clock tick slower now. Again, it must be my imagination…

“Charlotte? Charlotte, are you okay?” she asks with concern.

“Um, y-yes.” I stammer. Where am I? I look around the cluttered room and remember. Two overflowing bookshelves line one of the far walls while the others are decorated with framed diplomas and cheap stock paintings from the brand name craft store from the next town over. “Sorry, Claudia. I guess my mind drifted off.”
I’m sitting in my therapist’s office. I have a tissue in my hand and my head feels fuzzy. The dark green walls have always made me feel a little claustrophobic. There is an aching in my chest and a pit in my stomach. These are things I know. What I don’t know is how I got to Claudia’s office. Or where my car is parked. Or why I decided to wear a sweater in this awful heat. I fidget with my sleeves and pull out at the front of my sweater uncomfortably. 

“You left us for a minute… what were you thinking about?” Claudia asks. She looks more than concerned; she looks afraid.

“Right. Um, I…” I try not to swallow loudly. “I was just thinking.” I respond in my best non-committal voice.

“Would you like to talk--“

“Claudia, I’m so sorry.” I look at my watch-less arm quickly. “Not to be rude, but I forgot I had, um, someplace to be now.” I try not to look her in the eyes as I clumsily gather up my purse and scarf from the plaid couch under a large painting of a stone cottage nestled by a lake. I can feel Claudia’s eyes on me as I stumble over my feet and leave somewhat ungracefully, shutting her office door with a quiet click. Shuffling down the steps to the front door I feel the scarf in my hands and pause. Seriously, what was I thinking this morning?
A wall of cold air hits me when I open the front door, and a wreath bangs loudly next to my ear. I sigh inwardly and look up to the cloudy skies above me. Right. Of course. It’s December and Christmas is right around the corner.

I pull open the wreathless door and step inside as fast as I can. I have never been mistaken for someone who has it all together, but that little episode has left me feeling pretty shaken. I take a deep breath and turn the lock, leaning on the door for support. At least I found out where I parked my car. And thankfully I didn’t break the window trying to get into that doppelganger car outside of Claudia’s office. I peek back outside and see my white ’97 Honda Accord parked safe and sound in front of the house. Seriously, Charlotte, you’ve got to get it together.
It’s not the first time someone has lost their car in a parking lot, and it’s not this someone’s first time either. But even by my standards, forgetting that I walked the six blocks to my weekly counseling session is getting a bit ridiculous. Padding into the kitchen, I stop at the refrigerator to check its contents. My stomach rumbles impatiently. I’m not sure I ate breakfast, but I am quite sure that 3 o’clock isn’t exactly lunchtime. It will have to do, I mutter to myself as I eat cold leftover pizza straight from the box. How cliché, Charlotte. I can hear my mother’s pejorative tutting from three states away. Oh well, today has not been a gold star kind of day, so why start now? Now that I think of it, this type of all or nothing behavior is what Claudia has spent the last three sessions harping on. I lean my head back on the cold surface of the refrigerator door and sigh. I know that’s not fair. Claudia does not harp; she’s kind and thoughtful. And concerned about me, I remember uncomfortably.

She’s not the only one.

The house sits quiet around me and I know that I should get up and turn on the radio. The whir of the bedroom fan and the soft tick of the clock from the living room fill my ears with sound, but my mind hears the relentless quiet nevertheless. I run my hand across the soft blue shapes on the fabric of the window seat beneath me, tracing the circles with my fingers. This window seat in the middle bedroom has been one of my favorite spots in the house ever since Stephen first showed me this little house on Fourth Street. Though five years ago I didn’t know that I would be living here or that he would be my husband. But once he proposed it wasn’t long before I had designs planned for each room in our new house. The fabric store down on Main was one of my favorite stops on my way home from work. I loved picking out all the colors and patterns and textures of our new home. After our humble abode was decked out and completed, I would go back and spend hours pouring over fabric swatches dreaming of the day when… when…

Sighing deeply I get up and pace the room. I didn’t hear the keys in the lock, but the door slamming into place gets my attention.

“Stephen??” I call out uncertainly. The house answers back with creaking floorboards and silence.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Pictures, parenthood

Little feet jumping, dancing, stomping
Chubby cheeks waiting to be kissed
Wispy hair tickling my nose 
Sweet sticky little kid smells. 

Sour-sweet shoulders
Clothes forgotten in the washer
Dinner eaten late, standing barefoot in the kitchen
Coffee ice-cold, rewarmed again. 

Screaming, fighting, crying.
Tantrums run wild,
breaking up the day
with pleas for help.

Late night bowls of cereal
in bed, a baby in my lap. 
Unwashed hair braided back,
'Workout' clothes become pajamas, 
become tomorrow's clothes.

Maker of stories, milk out of thin air. 
Half eaten apples, like potpourri 
litter the carpet next to Batman and Cinderella. 
The vacuum, my music. 

Busy, busy, busy 
yet the day seems undone.
The sun sets on an unchecked to do list
and frustration builds. 

The pretty little picture I had made
in my head of this life,
And the guilt rages on. 

Countless tears shed and dried,
my own mixed with theirs. 
Half whispered prayers of grace-
Grace grace grace.

Grace kneels down with us. 
Grace washes and calms
My weary soul.
My sinful self. 

Grace for these precious children
whose faces look to mine for love
for comfort, for security 
and acceptance. 

Pictures of parenthood,
the picture of Love.
His mighty, faithful Love
that holds us all together.

Amen and Amen.