Monday, January 4, 2016

 The grief brick

Grief is so weird. 

I should know its intricate oddities by now - but life is so busy and I haven't taken decent notes.

On January first I woke up with this heavy feeling on my chest, kind of like a brick had been placed right above the region of my heart.  I tried to reposition myself to make it go away.  It held steady.  I got up and started in on my post vacation tasks. They were many.

I functioned,
                                                    even laughed a few times.  All the while feeling this crazy weight pressing in.

I tried to shrug it off,

mentally explain it away,

and even deny it.

Weird.  Am I sad? Did something happen? Did I eat something strange? What, what, what? 

And then -  like I was finally fully waking, it just hit me.

January.      Hello. 

And so it is.    //January//

The second day of January wasn't much different.

I continued going through odds and ends from traveling and wiped tears away.  I caught Dave's concerned eye and tried a half hearted explanation,

 "Sorry. I'm not sad. Really...."  

"I mean - I don't know. It's just this brick on my chest. Thing. Kind of like a weight....."

"And it's Caleb's birthday, so it's good...." 

Wiped more tears.

And he just put his arm around me and said, "And one of your kids isn't here.  It's ok."

He's tender and matter of fact and just what I need.

By the second day I had a pretty good idea of what the brick on my chest meant and I, naturally, began to think of ways to remove the weight.

Hmmm.  Maybe I need to go to the cemetery.  Release a blue balloon or something.  Maybe I should look at his baby book and make myself cry.  Maybe then it would go away. 

I would slowly exhale - trying to ease the weight by a sigh.  Deep breaths.  Change my breathing.  Drink some water.

But see, it doesn't go away.  And how true of human nature to desperately try to remove the weightiness around my heart.  Because we have this pain phobia.  When my kids are sick, what is the first thing they say to me?  "MOM, can you give me something, do something. maybe some medicine, SOMETHING to make it go away?!"

I understand addictions and numbing the pain.  How easy.  And how destructive.

Instead, I begrudgingly acknowledge my old friend.

"Hi there,


I guess it's January, huh? 

Weird way to start a new year. 

But I guess we've been starting one this way for over a decade now....

so - it's ok."

Sometimes you can lean into pain a bit and be ok.  Sometimes acknowledging it and slowing down to go eye to eye with it offers a sliver of comfort.

Because it means he happened.  And I will take all the bricks on my chest to feel him.  If I numb that then it takes some of him away.  I won't do that.

A thirteen year grief is way different than a brand new grief. Way different.  The weight isn't sharp.  It doesn't make me bleed.  It's just..... heavy.  And sometimes it makes me cry.

And it slows me down significantly.  That frustrates me.  January is a fast paced month.  Things need to get filled out and filed and finished up and started.  Slow doesn't work well with January.  But I have to.

I was elbow deep in dishwater and bubbles.  "You need to go lay on the couch and be still."

Ha! That's silly.  I don't do that.  That's not a part of my life.  It's not a thing.  What a strange thought.

"You need to go lay on the couch and be still."

Insert eye roll.

"You need to go lay on the couch and be still."

It was like a Jedi mind trick.

"Why yes.  Yes - I DO need to go lay on the couch and be still for a while!"

Grief slows me down.  And it should.  If I were counseling someone else through a younger grief I would admonish them to please, please slow down.  To rest.  To allow great big margins in the time period when grief hits the hardest.  And I guess God is trying to teach me to offer that same grace to myself.

I might still take some deep breaths, and try to reposition the weight away.  -Much of it is on a subconscious level and human nature does it's thing.  But this January I will place my hand gently on the place where the brick is on my chest.  I whisper his name and remember his feathery hair nuzzled against my cheek.  If I'm going to have Big Feelings - then I will choose to go both ends of the spectrum.  I won't numb the pain away.  And in so choosing, I will feel the ecstasy of those January moments too.

See, that brick on my chest can't take anything away from me.  And honestly - I think it's giving me more than I may ever know.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

 Happy 13!

You came into the world with the tiniest cry I had ever heard.  But you cried.  And that was everything. 

You are my tough as nails and my soft place to fall.

You are my multitasking and my brakes.

You are my reality.

You bring the blackest of storm clouds into my life and all the light of the heavens.

You changed my life.

You are my simple and my complex.

You show me everything I never knew I needed.

You push me to my limits and back again.

You are my organized and my chaos.

You confuse me and you astound me.

Today you are a teenager.

Being your mama is everything.

I will never forget your eyes fused shut and your tiny legs, the size of my pinky finger.

You are my miracle.

You show me hard; really, really hard.  And you show me a prefect grace.

You are my valuable and my priceless.

Happy 13 Caleb.  Thank you for forging a path that shows me a better, every day of my life.


Caleb Mark in middle school, 6th grade - 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

 Noe turns 9

Dear Noe,

In the early hours of this morning, while the house was still quiet, you turned nine years old.  To be honest,  I have thought of you as a nine years old for a while.  I often refer to you as my "old soul" and that only becomes more true with each passing year of your life.  It's not that you don't seem like a kid - you are silly and at times ridiculous, with loads of innocence.  But it's more of what's underneath all of that which points to an old soul.

You are absolutely, 100% comfortable in your own {unique} skin.  Your teacher brought this up to me at our recent conference and remarked that for the vast majority of her significant teaching career she has been faced with repeatedly trying to help kids feel more comfortable being themselves, but it often takes years, if it can even be achieved.  She beamed when she spoke of you and how you come in to her class daily, with a grin, dancing to your own beat.

You don't have tons of friends, but value every relationship you have.  You won't go with the flow and don't care what others around you will think of you.  I got a little glimpse of your classmates and how they relate to you when I headed up your third grade classroom Christmas party.  One girl sat at my sock snowman crafting table and with a grin reported that "Noah is the smart one in here.  If we don't know what's going on, we ask him.  And he keeps our teacher in line too."  - So we'll keep working on that respecting our elders thing and how sometimes even if you do know the right answer or a better way - just because we CAN correct someone doesn't mean we always should.  That detail aside, we are so grateful for your giving heart and your passion for truth!

I don't want to forget my third-grade-Noe.  You can not get enough of learning.  Since that's not the norm around here, it is rather fascinating to watch.  You could have school 7 days a week and still be hungry to learn.  Keep it up buddy, we are very proud of you. I love how immovable you have been, since kindergarten, on your desire to be a missionary when you grow up.  This fall I got you a biography of Jim Elliot and you have devoured that book.  I was a tad nervous to have you get to the end of that one because, let's face it, it doesn't exactly end....well. However, in true Noe fashion you gently explained to me that I shouldn't be sad it ended the way it did because living - and dying- for something bigger than ourselves is truly the point of life.  Gulp.  My bad. You were, indeed, ready to read it. Your plan to do a report on Jim Elliot for your big third grade project, interest fair, and wax museum is quite impressive. Because no one in your school really knows who he is and they are all choosing "famous" people with a wide popularity, who are or have been "in the spotlight".  So this highlights your YOU-ness, and how you run after what is important to you, no matter the pushback.

What a privilege it is to be your mama!  Some of the time I am guiding and training you, and then - there are all those times you school me in so many things.  You shoot straight, honestly, and logically.  And you have a very real radar-type sense of when I'm not.  You plan ahead and get things on my calendar, make me notes and organize as much as you can.  Because again.... Not my strong suit.  Yes, I learn so much from you!

This year I have also watched you become a bit of a "Mali-whisperer".  It's no secret over here that baby boy can be a bit of a terror, when the mood strikes him.  While we recklessly love that little terror, from head to toe, there are times no one can reason with him.  Until you get that "Mom, I've got this" look in your eye, grab your beloved art supplies, and whisk him into a creative coma before he knows what even hit him.  It's amazing really, because usually we have all tried things at that point and nothing quite works.  Suddenly we see him sitting with you, quiet and content, with scissors, glue, and paper flying.  I'm thinking whatever it is you do there - you should probably keep those skills around.  People managing skills are in rare supply and will serve you well in life...

So happy NINE dear son!  You are a delight.  Even when we don't see eye to eye, Even when your logic and reason clash with my... um illogic and emotion...  I am truly honored to be your mama!  Every year brings more wonderful things to see in you and this adventure sure is fascinating!


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

 {Come thou Long Expected Jesus} Christmas 2015

Come, thou long expected Jesus,  born to set thy people free; 

from our fears and sins release us,  let us find our rest in thee. 

Entering into this advent season.  Preparing my heart for worship. I am finding so many of these familiar Christmas hymns,  some written hundreds of years ago,  expressing my heart now. 

Oh deliver us! 

Placing wreathes and lights,  cute little snowmen faces,  

smiling at all of the special touches the boys delight to add to our Christmas decor... 

But I can't deny the heaviness. 

I know it's true.  That Messiah - our Jesus, came.  He did come.  He delivered us.  This was a significant component in God's amazing rescue plan for us.  But....

Many days I am relating more with the expectation and hope for deliverance than the rejoicing and release of tension. 

Hark the herald angels sing,  "Glory to the newborn king
Peace on earth and mercy mild,  God and sinners reconciled"  
Joyful all ye nations rise,  Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim,  "Christ is born in Bethlehem"

But being set free from fears and sins...
Finding our rest...
Peace on earth?
Mild mercy.....   

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

I feel the "weary world" aspect. Error.  It kind of screams loud and clear. And that Thrill of hope? It's just a seed of faith right now. 
That expectation which all of these songs begin with - to be culminated in the rejoicing of this new born king Messiah - well, honestly it's the same expectation I find myself at now. Today. 

Come thou long expected Jesus.... Please come! 

Truly He taught us to love one another,  His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother,  And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,  Let all within us praise His holy name

In a world of darkness we cling to the hope that the light has come.  Do you feel it with me? That darkness?  
- We look heavenward and step into the darkness with our light as bright as it can be.  We haven't another life giving choice but to be the light. To allow him to shine brightluy through our borkenness. 

In a world where reality is more frightening than fiction; where my youngest has nightmares because while we have been intentionally careful about what he watches, we have had the news on a few times in the last month - we gently explain to his quivering heart that we have this hope.... 

In a world where Christians fight against Christians and a me first stench permeates every corner - we choose humility, and that choice begins the slightest flicker of light.  Hope

What does a heart do when it feels as if it is grasping as straws to find that rejoicing? 

Hope.   But in what? I see some grasping for hope in their country.  When this oh-so-favored country returns to it's oh-so-perfect values - then, THEN we will be delivered. 
And so there is grasping for that ever elusive hope
 - in laws, 
Being right. 

And He delivered us from that. 

He is our hope.

He is our King. He is our answer. He is our light in the dark. 

"And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.    Hebrews 11:16

Before the beginning of what we know of as time,  He had a plan for us.  Fully knowing what we would choose;  the prostitution of our hearts,  the idolatry of the life He gave us, our hands swinging the hammer....

He delighted in us.  Wanted us.  Loved us.  Was born for us.  Died for us. 

And He is not done!  

A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

See,  that will happen again.  Hope.   Let your weary soul hope. 

Come thou Long Expected Jesus....