Friday, June 29, 2012

little miss

We have a little baby in the house again. She is super tiny and sleepy, but over the past week we've seen her become more alert. Her eyes were half closed all the time at first. Since this is a public blog, there's not a lot I can say, or show of course. We've been fostering her for one week and will probably be for some time. We know next to nothing. We'll know more soon.

I've seen so much sweetness come out in my boys (well, Silas' sweetness has to be contained so he doesn't poke her eyes and whatnot).  Children's ability to immediately accept change never ceases to amaze me.

So many mixed emotions. It's bizarre being in limbo like this, but that's what fostering is I guess. For now, there's a tiny little bug that curls up on my chest, and stretches out when I un-swaddle her, and smells like baby. Sink baths and pacifiers and so many naps, and figuring out what that cry means, and if you change her diaper I'll make a bottle at 2 am and wow, was that a smile? It's all familiar but so different too: the visits, interventions, tests. This is a weighty thing, but I'm trying to just enjoy the marvelous little details in all the waiting and uncertainty; all the holding back and giving. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

a loved daughter

It's Sunday afternoon. Lunch is put away and the house is quiet; its occupants either napping, reading or playing outside. I'm walking down the linoleum hallway, barefoot and in cutoff jeans and a t-shirt. I peek around the corner and there's my Dad, by his side of the bed, and I hear him praying for us. I hear my name, my brothers' names, and I hear the emotion in his voice. I keep walking and I'm not particularly surprised, because this is nothing new. 

Who knows what I did next--maybe poured some lemonade and sat under the big oak tree with whatever Babysitter's Club book I was reading at the moment, maybe returned to my room and put one of my beloved DC Talk cassettes on, maybe poured out Legos on the living room floor or set up the chessboard.

I may have taken those moments for granted, but now that I have them planted in my memory, I don't take them for granted. I was raised by an amazing father.

He was busy, he liked things to be done right, and he made a lot of commitments. Like so many people, I look back and remember him working, a lot. There were things he wasn't there for. But I also have so many memories of him being present. He affirmed me so many times. He never told me there were things I couldn't or shouldn't do because I was a girl or because I was simply me. He made paths for me.  When he told me he was proud of me, I felt it so profoundly. 

I saw him love my mother well; coming home from a long day and rolling up his sleeves. He shared the "second shift". He set the bar pretty high, as all fathers should, whether they have sons or daughters. 

Sometimes I wonder what my life would look like if he hadn't been part of it. I was an infant when he and my mother met, and some of my earliest memories involve him. Sock wars while he babysat my brother and me. Crawling up in his lap after church to ask for fifty cents for a coke from the machine. Driving out to the wilderness in his truck, searching for the perfect Christmas tree.

It's one thing to be a step-parent and tolerate. It's quite another to love a child so well that she occasionally forgets who's the bio parent and who's the step-parent. That is a gift that he gave me, and I will forever be grateful for it.

I think about all the things we could do if he was here--how he could teach my children so many things, how he would have loved them so well and imparted something mysterious and holy to them. I miss asking him for advice; I miss the slight Texas drawl in his voice. I miss. But at the same time I feel free to just remember and be grateful for all the Sunday afternoon prayer (and probably so many that I never heard), the pancakes, the early morning drives to band practice, the obnoxious and endearing whistling, the corny jokes. The experience of being a loved daughter.

Not everything in life makes sense but when you get to carry a legacy around with you, you know you're blessed. 

The older I am, the more I realize just how blessed. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I wake up rested and refreshed, and climb out of bed quietly so my sleeping children don't wake up. I make coffee and head outside to enjoy the fresh morning air while I read, think, and pray. I spend time thanking God for all I'm blessed with, I evaluate my heart and motives, I ask for forgiveness and help, I listen. I'm still. I read words that soothe, convict, encourage, inspire, break down, build up. I look up and they're awake. I smile, feeling centered and ready for the day. Off we go.

Yeah, that's my morning fantasy. Here's the reality:

I wake up because Silas is trying to put my glasses on my face. He hands me my phone, saying "lo? lo?" and I smile, blinking and sitting up. I think about coffee immediately. Ricky is leaving for work; kisses me goodbye. I hear the sounds of Superhero Squad coming from the office. I pull back my hair and head for the kitchen, heat up milk for Silas and remind Nicky that we're trying to start off the day with reading, not watching a show. "Well the day always starts with breakfast!", he proclaims, and I assure him that's coming. Penny stands at the back door. I let her out, and retrieve Silas' milk. He settles into a big chair to drink it; I pat him on the head. Nicky sits on the couch with his storybook Bible and starts to read about Joseph. I start some coffee. Silas drinks half of his bottle, throws it on the ground and climbs on top of Nicky, shuffling his pages. More protesting. Time for a diaper change. Nicky's now playing in his room. I sigh, say "Okay, we'll read later when you're less distracted." Silas plays, but when I stand up to go get my coffee and make some breakfast for everyone, he immediately starts crying. I go back. We play Ships--Nicky has built all the controls out of click-blocks. They dance around: toddler squats and robot moves. I smile and think this is so good. I get up again, they follow me. There is whining. I make toast with peanut butter and honey by request, pour orange juice, slice bananas. I stir cream into my waiting coffee, toast a bagel for myself. Silas, meanwhile, has eaten two bites and thrown the rest on the floor. All done! he signs triumphantly. I tell him he is going to sit there for a few minutes, and give him his milk to finish. I sip, and I read this:
Couldn't independence be not the ending point, but an adolescent transition period between childish dependence and mature interdependence? If we succeed in being independent, never needing God's help, couldn't that simply mean that we haven't tried anything very significant or challenging? Could it mean that we've never experienced the miracle of synergy with God, where we find God's strength flowing through us? 
"Book, book", Silas points to the ipad. I put it up high, take another sip of coffee, and let him down. Penny happily eats his leftovers. We have a doctor's appointment in two hours, but for now we're going outside to enjoy the cool morning air, water the flowers and play in the sandbox before it gets too hot for little toes. What's funny, what's God, is that I do feel soothed and convicted, encouraged and inspired, broken down and built up.
There are days, of course, when we wish there could be some other system. We wish there could be a way of developing patience without delay, courage without danger, forgiveness without offense, generosity without need, skill without discipline, endurance without fatigue, persistence without obstacles, strength without resistance, virtue without temptation, and strong love without hard-to-love people. But it turns out there is no other way. 
The Creator has created the right kind of universe to produce these beautiful qualities in us creatures. And among these beautiful qualities is interdependence--the ability to reach out beyond ourselves, to ask for help from others and from God, and to offer help when we are able. The whole shebang is rigged for mutuality, for vital connection.
I will probably yell several times today. I won't feel very spiritual. I will feel like I'm trying to sprint in a sand-dune. I will laugh, sigh, and hide in the bathroom. I'll try to keep a dialogue going with God all the while; that's the goal. Sometimes life feels like practicing, but it's the real thing, all the time.

quotes from Brian McLaren, Naked Spirituality
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