Wednesday, July 22, 2009

this place is hard on stuff

tonight benjamin and i settled into my favorite chair by the window.
i've rested here, worried here, prayed here, drank swimming pools of coffee here.
i've laughed here, cried here, watched countless others cry here.
i've talked about babies and birth and Jesus and i've yelled and i've apologized.

i looked out at the grass on fire, the sunset hitting the blades and lighting them from the inside - the only thing i like about that vast field filled with stuff is how it looks when the the summer light is low and the kids are in bed.

wait, what? there is a hammock out there?
what? i look out that window every day, every few nights, and i remember no hammock.
the weird thing is, it looks like it's been there for years -
one side is half torn down and brushing the dust. its ratted and torn and falling apart.
and maybe i have overlooked it for a few days, but it can't be more than a few weeks old.
i've walked in between those trees, stared right through them and never seen that hammock.

this place is hard on stuff.
the well water is very literally hard on your hair and skin.
the stories are hard on your memories, sometimes too hard to tell, because people wouldn't believe you or they'd only hear the extreme - while you would see the faces behind the words.
you'd remember your blood rushing to your face and making your cheeks hot, either with anger or fear or laughter or passion or excitement.
the lifestyle is hard on your family, your sanity. you have to build a thick skin around your babes and around your heart, like a fortress.
lotion will eventually help the well-water skin, but what helps a thick-skinned heart?

so tonight i feel like that hammock.
it's only been a year and a half. someone from the past might swear they never even knew i was here and someone from the future might never hear my name.
but i've got some frayed ends and some dirty pieces of rope trailing behind me.
this place has been hard on me, on us.
but Jesus is the one who rebuilds hammocks
and makes them sturdy again.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

benjamin, birth story part 1

Tuesday the twenty sixth had been planned out to be really, really low key. Nick and I had most of our errands, chores, & cleaning all wrapped up and we just wanted to spend a lot of time with Glory & Elias - making them feel as loved and cherished as possible before we were gone for a few days to have Benjamin. That morning as I was dressingGlor , I noticed a big old baby boogie and decided she'd breathe a lot better with it out. Like I do about five times a day, I went to hold her down so I could get it out and right then she took that strong little left leg and absolutely socked me right in the baby belly. Immediately I felt a sharp pain and cramping so strong, I couldn't stand up totally straight. I'd been really uncomfortable for the past few months, but this was different. I tried to walk it off/forget about it during breakfast - but as the morning went on, so did the cramping pain and I noticed that Benjamin had stopped being his normal rambunctious self. Nick, of course, wanted me to go to the doctor, but I felt like I was making a mountain out of a molehill - so we tried to walk around the mall with the kids and go on with life as usual. Finally, I put a call in to my doctor and they said to absolutely come in. Yikes.

As I drove, I listened to our c-section playlist for the next day. As I was driving and singing the words, "and I need ... more time/ just a few more months and we'll be fine", I just sort of lost it. I was having such a hard time, for a million different reasons, preparing for this birth - emotionally, spiritually, and still it came on quicker and quicker. Now my fear was, if Benjamin was in distress, I wouldn't even have today with the kids - wouldn't have my mom here, wouldn't have just a few more hours to get my heart ready. I so longed to be ready for Benjamin... to be enough for him, enough for all the kids. As I drove and cried and prayed - I acknowledged for about the hundredth time that week that I wasn't going to be enough, ever, and just begged Christ to be complete in me. For my sanity, my husband, my kids.

When I got to my ob, they found Benjamin's heartbeat really quickly - which was a huge relief and they decided to do a nonstress test for a while. They went in twenty minute segments, seeing what his response was to contractions & kicks. They kept extending the test because each little movement or contraction made hisheart rate go down, instead of up - like they wanted it to. I could hear the nurses consulting with my doctor just outside the room, debating whether or not to move the surgery up to today - but they just kept giving him twenty more minutes to pull it together. All of a sudden, my doctor decided it wasn't that severe. Hisheart rate wasn't that low and since the surgery was already scheduled for the next day - they'd let me go home and wait till then. Before I could even get really nervous, it was all over. I was driving home back to a relaxed day.

That night my mom came in and I showed her all my copious lists and notes and directions and Nick and I packed the final bag. I spent some time praying & reading and writing to Benjamin - telling him about his name, what it meant, and how I couldn't wait to see how God unfolded his life for us. I told him about my own struggles and how my major prayer for myself as a mama of three was to let Christ rule in my heart & be the ultimate source of strength. After I went to bed around eleven, I started waking up around midnight in thirty minute segments - just sure that it was time to get up & go to the hospital.
I was finally really ready - just antsy and anxious to meet my son.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


A definition is slowly being rebuilt in my dull little mind.

It used to be all skinny legs and shiny hair, bulge-free backs and smooth thighs.
It was always a comparison that I couldn't stand too close to.

Though it took some time, I finally stopped looking at their bodies and looked closer to what it was the women around me were saying and doing and though my vision is still somewhat sandy - the light of truth is more visible around the edges now.

Beneath a smile plastered face that should read frustration and instead exudes patience, where smeared mascara is left by a hand that doesn't have the luxury to linger on selfish pain, when hands are raised to praise when they could wrench in sorrow, I saw beauty.

When crowns of glory were shorn for sacrifice, when dry and cracked lips chose to speak words of blessing, where women with right to blame and sin let their tightly grasped fingers fall open and let hurt slip down.

I see it clearly now - woven into the women around me.
Beauty shifted.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

first shot

This is my shot at fiction/non-fiction. I really want to write fiction mixed with some aspects of real life memories so here was my first draft go at it.

At some point today, they will all think back to that night.

The mama, in the midst of her own world - protecting the newest daughter from the turmoil and reality of life, will remember the time where she won the gold medal in convincing your daughters that everything is well when the world spins out of control. The big sister, plopped on a couch with her own girlies will see an 80's themed movie and remember the costumes & the show they put on for one another. And the baby sis, she will be prompted at a dinner party to conjure up her favorite childhood memory & will ultimately tell her friends about the night of the greatest slumber party ever.

In September of 1989, a hurricane swept up the East Coast as a category five killer - ending 82 lives and leaving 56,000 homeless. For years growing up, I saw people of all ages wearing t-shirts that read, "I survived Hurricane Hugo", and I'd laugh to myself. I was there, and I certainly survived it - but it wasn't an occasion I associated with danger or harm, not even inconvenience. I do slightly recall being without power for a few days and I know that school was cancelled - but when I look back on my five year old memories, I can't really differentiate between the most expensive & damaging hurricane to hit the US in history and the block party we'd had the summer before.

In those days, as now, I could vascilate between light-sleeping and short-term comas, and that was a deep sleeping night - despite trees falling and limbs crashing. The mama gently rustled me and then probably just pulled me straight downstairs into the party. Again, my five year old memory doesn't serve me perfectly but where history falls short, my imagination runs wild.

Down the stairs and turning the corner into the hallway, my sister and mother were gathered in what was obviously the safest part of our little townhouse. There were cartons of ice cream, toppings, and delicious perishables spread about. In my mind's eye, I can see my sister wearing some hilarious creation from the eighties - because a midnight slumber party just wasn't a party in those days without something sequined from the dress-up stash. We had numerous tubular, gaudy, pieces of fabric that we could wear as tops or miniskirts depending on our mood and in truth, almost every memory from that townhouse contains my sister wearing one of those somewhere on her body. I'm sure her thick brown hair was falling heavily beyond her shoulders and there is little doubt in my mind that I could find a hairbrush in her hand, appropriately standing in for a microphone. New Kids, Madonna, but probably Amy Grant blasted on our tape player - muffling the violence that hit against our windows.

Maybe that night we put on a little Cher and did our own version of "It's in His Kiss", as we were known to break out at parties, church functions, or just for our own good fun on a random Tuesday. My mom would stand in front singing lead and she and I would stand in back shoop-shooping to the left, then the right, then the left, then the right. That will be the first song I teach my daughter.

Everything about that night was so magical and awesome - so indicative of what life was like in those days. The world probably felt a little crazy and statistically against my mother, we probably felt a little crazy to her, for sure. Two wild women-little-girls, who unfortunately would only get a little wilder... but she convinced us that the storms were fun and the ice cream would all be gone in a few hours. What else was there to do but live and love in the moment?

Monday, November 17, 2008


for my writing group this week, we wrote about memories.
this is a memory I think of so often, i wrote two separate pieces about it - one short & one long.

youthful thoughts and bodies
stood staring at the sky
with words of praise and adulation
fingers straining wide

my head burned with hunger
my body stiff with ache
legs enflamed, stomach tumbling
is it supposed to be this hard?

i can't see the words on the screen
or the point of screaming to you
when i don't feel enraptured
or caught up in the tune

im pressing my feet firm in the ground
and bending my heart flat to yours
you are worth telling you
that you are worth alone.

My freshman year of college was like a big introduction to Jesus. I had started to meet and longed to understand him a few years back, but mostly those years were an introduction to christians and trying to understand their life, trying harder to mirror it. But that year, something shifted, and I grew less enamored with the people and more drawn to their Person. He really was perfect. Perfect. Perfect. And we were not.

I wanted to be caught up in Him, swept away in relationship with Him, stuck prostrate at His feet and life continued to get in the way. But there was this trip coming up, an outside worship/camping trip with 20,000 people crying out to the Lord and communing with Him. I was all over that. Let's leave it all behind, let's gather and worship, let's get to the heart of what is real.

Unfortunately for me, it was a camping event and I am well, not a camper. I started off the trip about as horribly as you can with a massive case of food poisoning at the beginning of an eighteen hour drive. I sat in the back of a fifteen passenger van, swaying with the movement of the van and willing myself to die, and then I'd bust through the doors at each stop to rid my body of the offensive poison that was absolutely ruining my trip.

As we approached the small town of Sherman, Texas - my stomach was beginning to heal itself and a new ailment was raring its head. If anyone should get their period on a camping trip, it should be me - for sure. With about 200 portapotties for 20,000 people, I could calculate that trouble for myself. This just wasn't what I expected and I was beginning to get frustrated. I longed to be with Jesus - period and stomach virus free. Picturing myself on the open field with my hands stretched out to him and my heart filled with his presence, I vowed to get through the next few days. There were two days of messages from theologians and evangelists, time to prepare our hearts for the big day of corporate worship.

In those two days, there was a Texas-sized thunderstorm that electricuted several people, left our tents with a few feet of water, soaked our clothes and food, and expanded all my tampons - leaving them useless and me just a step more miserable. Somewhere in there, I got about a thousand chigger bites and because I couldn't shower, they stayed beneath my skin & got infected. Instead of closer and closer to the throne of God, I felt closer and closer to my own personal hell. I wish I could say I was encouraged by teaching and fellowship, but I was really just miserable.

The night before the main worship gathering, Nick and I were sitting just outside the designated field, watching and listening as people continuously read the Word over the area from a watchstand, and I think we were both feeling a little reflective and anxious in our hearts. What do you talk about when you know you are about to experience the Lord in a few hours in such a tangible & amazing way? What things do you talk about? Our wordless conversation was abruptly interrupted by the fist-sized raindrops we'd come accustomed to over the past few nights, and we knew we only had a few minutes to race back to our campsite, about a mile away. As we started running, we got separated and I was just standing in the middle of a field - with a wall of rain in front of me and behind, feeling so stuck and so disappointed in Jesus. I had come all this way for problem after problem, so I just sat and sulked in the rain. I saw no point in moving my body or my heart.

The next morning I woke up with itchy legs, a sensitive stomach, and woman troubles galore and we all headed out to the field. We made sure to scout out seats up front, but didn't bother to be sure we could see the screen and sure enough - we were too close. These were all new worship songs and none of my group knew the words. So we all sat and stood in silence, gathered with all the thousands, worshipping God. Probably every one but me.

I remember feeling apathy and confusion. Jesus was who I wanted to know and who I longed to be near, but this was miserable and I didn't feel him. There were no fuzzy feelings and no prophecy on my lips, I couldn't really even see the words everyone was singing - so it was hard to comprehend what worshipful thought I was missing out on.

In the middle of my grumbling, amidst my hunger and irritation, it hit me. Worship had nothing to do with Jesus making me feel good and everything to do with me trying to bless his heart. He deserved praise and good feelings, I deserved much worse than little bugs stuck beneath my skin and second-degree sunburn. For the rest of those hours, I never felt good. I never felt peace or joy or other-worldly inspiration. But I felt indebted to praise. Required to dance. Blessed to be able to sing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


One day on a spring break trip, I couldn't climb a tree and I was sad and the boys laughed and I cried a little. My friend planted a little romance by walking casually over and sticking a flower behind my ear. I have a picture of us, sprawled out in the grass - my eyes still teary but struck with wonder at the man who sat beside me.

Six months later, we were in a massive water fight and running all around and he splashed me and I splashed him and all of a sudden we were face to face and the kind of romance that you don't want to awaken was rushing through me, so I ignored it and laughed at my handsome friend.

Two months after that, he found my hand beneath a blanket
the night after that, across the armrest at the movies
we stayed quiet about it, but romance was spreading like a rash.

Then, all of a sudden, we were in a fight and like the friends in Song of Solomon - my girl friends were all staring at me in the middle of a grocery store, telling me I was stupid to not get it. Stupid not to go to his house this minute and apologize and find him, stupid to let another day pass pretending.

Our first valentines day, romance was making me homemade angel wings and bringing me a dozen roses to school. Our second valentines day, it was takeout in the dorm and a christian fish ring that turned my finger green. Our third, we babysat for my sister. Fourth, we babysat for both of her babies. Fifth, we were married and went to Chili's because I was starting a diet the next day and wanted to eat fries. Our son was two weeks old on our sixth valentines day and we were overwhelmed with love and warmth and exhaustion. I made him a mug & he got me one too. Coffee was important then. For our seventh, he swept me away to a northwestern sea bungalow where we loved and laughed and slept and talked about our baby girl, who we'd meet in a month.

It's better than homemade angel wings and fish rings, now. So much better. Now, I think flowers are a waste because they die but I think back rubs are amazing. Every few nights we light some candles and get dressed to get undressed and in the morning we usually slap each others butts before nine a.m. On a good day.

Romance for us is choosing, daily. I choose him through his stupid, stubborn thickheaded yet still sexy gracious christlike life and he chooses me through my lazy, bratty, whiny, rebellious hard trying self. But geez, I love that guy.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Open hands, essay 2

The other day Nick and I were talking about a friend with new babies who had family come in to help and I was immediately transferred back to a hilarious, scary day of my life. Elias had been home the hospital for almost a week. My mom had rushed in from 200 miles away to be with me each step of those crazy few days. She stood beside me as I triple checked his car seat. She helped me plan our first trip to the doctor, which we carefully navigated making a stop halfway to make sure the baby boy was safe. It was her that walked into our Starbucks with me to show him off to our favorite baristas and her that pushed Nick and I out the door for a thirty minute coffee date so we could talk a little – even though we just itched to get right back in the door. She even slept in our bed with me and did midnight duty so that Nick could get rest since he had just started a new job.

The day she left was the scary day. I started crying around an hour before she started packing and it only picked up when the door closed behind her. I’ll never forget pacing our little 1,000 square foot townhouse, Elias in my arms, looking down at him and bawling – saying, “I’m so sorry!” over and over again. Inept, Unprepared, Alone, and Overwhelmed. Those were my banners. I wasn’t even slightly disappointed in the son we had prayed and waited for – but I was overwhelmingly frustrated with myself. In that first week alone, I changed out of my pajamas once – maybe twice. I cancelled a doctor’s appointment for Elias that was at one p.m. because I couldn’t manage to get us both dressed and out the door in time to leave. All of a sudden, I was busy with nothing to do and exhausted without barely moving.

Seriously – so much of that yuck can be blamed on hormones but I know now most of it had to do with unintentionality. Yearning to be a mama meant nothing without knowing why you pined for the position in the first place. Holding a baby was confusing when you didn’t understand what the next step was.

Fast forward a bit over a year and the scene was familiar and different all at once. I was sitting in the hospital bed, c-section incision even more fresh – one baby learning how to nurse and one baby trying to find his sweet spot in the other arm. Elias was puzzled by me being in bed and he was really confused by the lifeless blob laying in my arms. He wriggled and squirmed and she cried and fussed and we all sat there, in that noisy bed – drinking in our new life. I should have started crying then. Had I been in my right mind, I would have been pacing then… Two kids under two. One barely walking and not talking and the other with horrible colic and a mommy complex. Two in diapers, different stages. Different nap times, different lunch times, no real bed time. Intentionality was the balm for my soul. Panic was no longer part of the equation because Jesus had slowed my heart down long enough to think and pray and decide why these lives were important enough to give mine for, why they deserved my utmost patience and purpose.

I spent my pregnancy with Glory doing a million things. I tried to work outside the home and then decided that would not work for me. I got to know Elias and got to know the kind of mom he demanded. I got to know Jesus’ word and researched and prayed and poured over any verse that could be related to parenting or motherhood or raising a child. I learned how to spank, how to make up songs on the spot, how to say no again and again and again to friends asking to go to coffee. I listened to my husband and he listened to the Lord and we moved across the country for a lot of different reasons. I spent the last month holding Elias and singing to him and delighting in him alone. I found peace and excitement in giving him the greatest gift I could ever present him with – a sis to soften and challenge him and to look up to him like the prince that he is.

So when my mom left this time – I should have been a thousand times more stressed. This time, she was going 2,000 miles back home and we couldn’t say when we’d see one another again. No one was coming to replace her, no one to accompany me to the doctor’s appointments or to meticulously pack the diaper bag with. Interestingly enough, my heart was devoid of fear and filled with relief. I needed her to leave to prove to myself I could do it – Elias crying and needing attention, Glory whining and needing my whole life. For weeks I poured over processes and plans and figured out exactly how to feed two at once, how to carry them down the stairs at once (even if you busted your stitches open), and how to rock one while you kicked a soccer ball for the other with your spare foot. It’s just a different world though. With each bottle sanitized and every shirt washed there is intentionality. The mundane of today is preparing the eternal for tomorrow – minute by minute and child by child. My haphazardly open hands had suddenly been filled, my quiver absentmindedly made full and my new banner became reflection – stop and think, stop and pray, stop and plan. It was like looking at a mall directory that was actually your life, recognizing where you are and moment by moment, redirecting yourself to where you need to go.