Friday, September 12, 2014

gratitude

I open up the kid's computer in the office. My laptop died months ago and blogging has been scarce.
Benedict Cumberbatch is the screen saver and he smiles coyly at me - almost mockingly as I gather threads of thoughts wondering if I have anything coherent at all to say.

"I'm grateful..." my heart whispers...

And it's true.

This week has been awesome - school is still getting rolling, my college kid is loving her classes, my baby slept better, my teens are changing every day - but it's the beautiful, welcome kind of change. It's the kind of change that is evidence that there is a Holy God working in their lives, whispering truths, beckoning them to come... and they are heeding that invitation. My "almost teens" are growing too... They're trading childish things for talents and passions that they work on and derive pleasure from. They can do so many things that I could never do... it's fun to watch.

Then my bonus boys...

Oh trust me, I'm grateful. I'm plenty grateful.

Belligerently I stomp my foot, "But God," I whine, "I want him..."

My travelling man has been gone all week - swept up in the vortex of work and meetings and technology blips... I haven't heard more than a few words from him.

The loneliness can be so real...

And it almost makes me howl that I could even use the word "lonely" to describe any aspect of this full life I lead. My arms are so rarely empty and everywhere I turn there is another likable human being willing to share a conversation, a hug, a cookie or a TV show.

But there's sometimes a lonely for just the one person who has seen the very nakedness of your soul - who shares your bed, your body, your memories and your deepest loves... a person to chuckle with in the darkness before sleep comes, the person who seems to have what you lack, and lacks what you have...

Too personal... I backspace, try again, frustrated, flushed, embarrassed - keep it togehter, paige...
In the shower, my finger traces the word in the steam, "invisible".

And my heart, whispering it's gratitude defensively is shushed to silence by the Author's question, "am I enough?"

"Of course you're enough!" I sputter... "Aren't I allowed to want someone? or something? or am I supposed to live in a perpetual state of bliss - desiring nothing but the company of God?"

He's working something out in me... I feel it and the tears sting my eyes and I'm ashamed of the lump in my throat because...

I AM GRATEFUL...

He knows I am.

He knows it.

Defences down, I close my eyes.

"Yes. You're enough."

Haven't You, Father, been the subject of every love song sung at my piano this week? Has not my heart been begging for the Gentleness of my Shepherd to lead?

And it's like He speaks to me...

"I see you."

Seen.  Seen in the darkness after the baby has been tucked in. Seen in the king sized bed that refuses to warm up all the way. Seen drawing and singing... and cleaning and cooking. Not invisible. Seen.

"I hear you."

Not only heard, but understood. Not judged for feelings that aren't sin, aren't wrong, aren't insignificant to me... or to Him. Heard, whispering truthful, biblical prayers. Heard playing and singing till my voice wavers, cracks and breaks. Heard.

"I'm with you."

Not alone in trying to protect the little ones in my care. I'm in His company when I whisper that I want my husband. He seems to nod somberly. He's with me.

And oh... my gratitude breaks from the easy list that I have made in my head... a roof over my head, food to eat, children to love, a husband who will, ultimately, come home, friends who care, music that feeds and humour that kindles and brings warmth like a flame...

All of it fades when my invisibility is proved false and His faithfulness is proved true. My gratitude is real.... and so is my longing. They can co-exist - and in that sweet balance, I'm allowed to feel what I feel.. and for that?

I'm grateful.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Life in Transition

First there was her grade 12 registration.

i remember her grinning over my shoulder as i exclaimed in chagrin that this was my last time registering her for school...
Then, as soon as she was able, she applied for college. They conditionally accepted her. She wrote exams at the end of her first term. She was halfway done. She studied. i encouraged... i cheered. Sometimes i annoyingly reminded, pushed, prodded... i tried to be a good mama - all fumbling like a parent in the passenger side as their child hurtles down the highway for the first time, shouting instructions and pounding that imaginary brake as their child adeptly makes lane changes, weaving capably in and out of traffic.
We planned grad together.
She showed me what colours she liked and she let me put my fingerprints throughout it too. Sometimes she says that in the kitchen, we are like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, and it`s true... we work well together - cooking for ten most nights and days. i guess our experience paid off cause her grad was amazing. Over 80 people showed up to honour her... There were thoughtful speeches, yummy desserts, a song, grandparents and a special cousin who travelled, friends who helped and cried and hugged and brought presents, a soft blue dress that fit like a glove. There was also one clear, sweet voice using the humorous guise of, "valedictorian speech" to give her testimony to a room of people she admires.
It was perfect, really.
Neil's cousin's wife took grad pictures, my friend did Cai's hair...
She looked so pretty... So poised and confident. So Cairo.
After two and a half years of working at Dairy Queen and putting her cheques diligently in the bank... After countless babysitting jobs, loving each little one in each family and giving her dad the majority of the money she made over all those hours and hours of toil to put in the bank for her, she scrawled out a budget for her college education. She had more than enough.
"But i get to buy you new boots..." i added unnecessarily.
She doesn't really need me...
Her diploma grades arrived, and i rudely ripped open the envelope while she was at work. i really did. i'm ashamed to admit it, but it's the truth... i justified it by saying i wouldn't want to rush to her work with the envelope if it were bad news, but the news was good. Really good. So i grabbed her sister and my keys and with an idiotic grin on my face, i rushed in and shoved the envelope in her face.
She forgave me.
Her acceptance letter followed, and her diploma followed that.
Summer was in full swing.
She bought herself a new computer.
i tried to find her the kind of backpack she wanted.
She got her course schedule, and spent some time trying to figure out how the public transit was going to work for her 8am classes.
And this week, she works her final shifts at Dairy Queen. Her little apron is worn now... The sticky ice cream spray has been washed off of it a million times... those strings are weary from being wrapped around her tiny waist shift after shift as those blue eyes met the next customer, "What can i get you?"
Another childhood, please. A little girl with platinum cotton candy hair and electric blue eyes. Chicklet teeth that were worn almost in half from chewing on her dollies fingers by the time they came loose. i'll take one of those... please.
i wasn't ready to become a mama when she came.
i couldn't fathom what it was to first make room in your body and then to be the one who woke in the night, cleaned up the vomit, wiped away tears, prayed agonized prayers over feverish bodies, teen angst and exhaustion... i couldn't imagine the next 18 years when i was only 19 when i found out she was coming. i couldn't dream of weighing it all in my head, constantly second guessing myself, 'Is she healthy? Are her eyes ok? Will she be safe on those roads? Should i have put her in more lessons? What gaps did i leave in her education? Is she wrestling out her character flaws? Does she know they're there? Does she love me? Did too much of my own baggage wash over and soil her sweet, tender heart? Does she know i did my best?'
And my "word" for this year... or phrase, i guess, has been learning to "surrender - changing my heart of stone for a heart of flesh".. i have been learning to strive less and surrender more - and how many beautiful opportunities has my Saviour given me during this transitional season to learn that tender lesson? He's such a gentle shepherd... he knows the striving is futile... and breaking me of this futile habit, while painful, will be for my own good...

First there was her grade 12 registration. The beginning of the ending.
But, by tender mercies out of my hands, she's still here for awhile. She'll live at home while she takes her classes at a community college. We'll still traipse and dance around that kitchen as adeptly as we ever have. The donuts will still be made on the first day of snow and the little brothers will still get more time to make some memories as she continues to transition and strengthens her wings to fly...

Monday, July 28, 2014

why write

i don't know what it is about writing that i find so interesting. Grammar and rules mean little to me... it's something else entirely that i find captivating.
i see emerging writers grappling with ever expanding vocabulary standing in front of a wall of words that are like a wall of paint chip samples in varying shades of white - picking painstakingly the one that most closely matches their heart. They take a phrase and bend it; using punctuation and sentence structure - like an artist creating a sculpture - till it pleases their eye and the rhythm and cadence makes the words roll off their tongue, just so.
And i have felt that same call that beckons a new writer to write.
"Hear me, hear me..."
Finally with something to say - an offering - and at times the very heart of praise as truth is proclaimed and etched for all eyes to see.
Little Elmer is barely one. He stumbles on fat legs that still wobble and collapse. His words are few - most of his articulations are shrill - little commands and reports of displeasure or pleasure or desire.
Will he one day sit before a glowing box - fingers clickety clacking over a keyboard, slavishly putting the magic of his mind into sentences and paragraphs that make his mama laugh and cry and puzzle over the complexity of God's creation - a little boy woven together in my womb - and now having the ability to weave words that have the potential to change a heart - a mind - a life...
i don't know..
i re-read the words i just wrote now.  They look kind of lame - all trying too hard, and falling too short.
I tweak one here - pull a sentence out there. Change the intensity, adding a blush of colour...
i want them to see me wrestling. i want them to see me falling short... i want them to know that you don't ever arrive, there is only growing, learning and change.
So, write little ones... ignore the perfectionism that would steal your words and silence the truths you're learning.  Every battle you engage in to get your ideas down will make you more a more proficient, adept communicator. You'll find more clarity in your thoughts and more grace in capturing them.
You'll get better.
Let me peek into the workings of your mind - and make myself and home among your musings...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

for my mom on mother's day

My mom was 23 when she had me - her third daughter.
When I was little, I would sometimes sneak into her bed in the mornings and she would be watching David Mainse on 100 Huntley Street. i can still feel the soft stretched skin of her stomach. I'd be fingering the silvery marks under my index finger and feeling the wonder in knowing that i helped put them there.
I still have some faint memories from the time that I got to spend at home after both my big sisters were in school. I remember one time, them coming home, and i ran up to them, clinging to them, smelling deeply that unfamiliar smell - school. I still got to stay home and bake with mom... she let me eat the leftover pieces from the gingerbread house she made at Christmas time while i hid behind the couch. I got to tag along on grocery shopping. I got to play with my dollies and go to her ladies bible study - and i don't remember minding.
I remember when I enrolled in kindergarten. We lived close enough that I could walk to school. I remember coming home and getting tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. My mom loved to hear my stories from kindergarten - and I loved to perform. Still to this day, she's always saying how my retelling of the story "Little Miss Helpful" was remarkable. i was five. I'm pretty sure it wasn't remarkable - but it was to her.
i remember how i studied her face and found it unreadable when we would tease and beg for a baby brother... i begged as hard as my sisters did... but deep down, i always wondered how it would feel to lose my "baby of the family" status... i never got to find out.
I remember in grade three, coming out of the school. I didn't say a word - and maybe that's how she knew, but she pressed me and I could hardly choke out in gasping sobs how my teacher had humiliated me in front of the class.
"Wait here for a minute... " She said as she slipped out of the vehicle and through the doors of the school.
She wasn't furious - but I knew that she had my back.
I remember one time my mom came to school to drop something off. She was wearing a new white spring jacket, and all my friends thought she was pretty... and I did too.
And weaving itself between little individual memories are the innumerable memories of the hours spent learning harmonies, blending parts and stumbling piano. There was always a half empty forgotten cup of coffee resting on the side of the piano in those years. After I'd go to bed, i would hear her play The Homecoming - often stopping and starting - a lifelong work in progress. Neil and i heard it come on the speakers in a restaurant when we were out for breakfast one time and i had to bow my head to hide the tears... There is a soundtrack to my childhood, and that song is on it.
One time, my mom and i were waiting in the sanctuary of the church for something. i was just a little girl and my mom opened a hymnal. "Do you know this one?" She asked as she started to play... She played song after song after song... and i remember not knowing so many of them. And so she taught me - she took us to seniors homes and we sang the hymns - she whispered the alto lines in my ear during church and so many of those songs became precious to me as they soaked in trough the fabric of my being into my heart, nourishing my very soul.
I remember when my sisters got "ghetto blasters" and they would record on tapes the rock music off of 630Ched; Peter Cetera, Glass Tiger, George Michael, Van Halen. I was just a little too far behind, a little too young, a little less cool...  I snuck out to the yard and my mom was gardening. She likes growing things... she went and got us each a fudgesicle and we sat on those cedar house steps, and as the sun beat down on the top of my head, that memory stored itself deep inside my mind with the silence punctuated only by the sounds of chirping birds and whispering grass...
I remember moving in grade 6... and watching her car out the back window of the bus as she followed me to my new school on my first day.
I remember her olive green bikini and how brown her skin would get... how much she loved the water and her willingness to get her hair wet.
In high school, we hiked. Often in silence... or maybe we talked, but i don't remember talking a lot... i loved hiking Kalamoir. It made my lungs hurt - and the view made my heart explode. i would always delay lifting my eyes from the hill that was freckled with brown eyed susans. i would wait till we were at the top... and then let the beauty of the sun on the lake shatter me in a million ways as i drank it in, in great thirsty draughts.
Later, we biked. i wonder how many miles we biked together around the Okanagan valley?
i remember going to school in grade 11 to write my physics exam and then the freedom of skipping out early, meeting her in the parking lot and heading out on a bike trip. Both my sisters had moved out - and i missed them. Those trips distracted me from the things i needed distracting from, and gave me memories to carry when i experienced a premature baptism into adulthood, finding myself a pregnant, unmarried 19 year old.
My parents were reeling - how could they not reel?
But i could tell she didn't want to be a part of any destruction of these sacred memories of engagement, matrimony and first child...
So, she worked to bring out the sweetness - coaxing it like a flame from a damp log. Embossing butterflies on my reply post cards, beautifying each little detail that i was too sick or busy to attend to, sewing me a dress...
i remember feeling like maybe i wasn't supposed to talk about my pregnancy. i did talk about how miserable i felt, but was talking about the baby off limits until the wedding was over? i didn't know what was allowed...
One afternoon, i was at her house so she could see how the dress fit me; my body kept changing...
It was that afternoon that i felt Cairo's first kick... Timidly, i told my mom - and she smiled as we talked about it. She didn't shush me,  she wasn't over the top - but she just let me be... and share that little piece of wonder with her.
It was a similar feeling - one of not knowing the rules - when i lost my first son a year later. i remember she came to me even though she lived two provinces away. i sobbed to her that i didn't know how to grieve. i didn't know what i was supposed to feel - how i should act. What were the rules??
She told me to feel what i feel.
And that was that.
My parents did so many things right.
i think so often, I've had a personality that has trouble remembering exactly how things were. My memories are whispers rather than shouts. Lately, I've seen the value in shuffling through those memories and pulling out the ones that are worth preserving... putting a little effort into exploring that dusty, cobwebby past - and making discoveries that climb up my limbs and whisper in my ears that i have been loved.
Mama, i know this isn't pretty or well organized - but I'm so grateful to you for having me. I'm grateful that you love beauty. I'm grateful that even now, you're constantly changing growing and learning.
I'm grateful that you're my mom.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

motherhood - it's not what you think

It's almost mother's day.
I've been sitting here thinking of some of the moms that I know - or even the ones that I don't know. Moms who aren't in the thick of the curly toddler locks, the teething babies, the laboriously printed block letters...
No...
Motherhood goes beyond all the things that are physically hard and sweet and poignant. All the things that the internet highlights as motherhood?  They're our very best side.
The side that we hardly dare to speak of - let alone post it on the internet... that's the side that has been on my mind. The gut churning days where adolescent lives are wept over. The adult child who is full of seething hatred. The families struggling with mental illness and begging social services for a hand.

Oh, and I love me some baby love.

Who has loved motherhood like I have? Blogging the precious night wakings and the nursling, juggling the sweet elementary homeschoolers with gap toothed grins and scraped up knees... oh, I love it, I love it, I love it...
But mercy...
There are mothers who are spending their lives humbling themselves yet again in the face of extraordinary circumstances beyond anything that a sane human being would willingly sign up for. Loving beyond broken relationships, physical ability, beyond the gates of heaven that welcomed children before the parents who never stop longing for them.
I was thinking that maybe we should just scrap this whole divisive mother's day thing... So many women pained by infertility, singleness - and a callous culture that undervalues women in almost any life circumstance and pits us against each other in the most unfathomable ways.
But then I couldn't help but think of the women who are mothering through the darkest of days. The ones who reject any honour that might try to land on them on mother's day. The ones who grimace through the airy compliments from others who know nothing of their struggle - because the story isn't theirs to tell, it belongs to their suffering children - and amazing mother that she is... she'd cut off her own arm before she'd spill the howling pain she's in as she goes about her days praying for respite.
So this mother's day, I want to honour *that* mother.
The mother walking in the dark.
The mother trying to find an empty room so she can scream into a pillow.
The mother who looks like she has it all.
The mother who is being faithful.
The mother who is a lifeline to the human souls entrusted to her.
The mother who personifies hope.
The mother who needs some herself...

Happy mother's day.

Keep on, precious woman... one foot in front of the other...
You are doing Kingdom work - and it is not in vain.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (phil 3)

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