Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 in Review

roll away your stone, I'll roll away mine
together we can see what we will find
                            -Mumford and Sons

Here are some of my favorite moments and words from 2012.

In January, I pondered the mysterious nature of joy, we started the homestudy process for foster adoption, and I spent precious time with my fishbaby. Nicky broke his arm, Silas got pretty good at walking, and I gave myself permission to give up sometimes, which turned out to be a pretty healthy habit.

In February, I captured a moment with Ricky, spent a beautiful evening with my family and gave thanks for it, and thought about Christianity; about who's in and who's out. We continued being studied.

In March, Spring came, and I was reminded once again that everything is spiritualI caught a fresh glimpse of God's heart and found hope.

In April I turned 29, and listed some gifts. I got my first tattoo, and we officially became foster parents. I celebrated the capability of mothers, as part of the Mother Letters project.

Nicky graduated from kindergarten in May,  and I thought about what a cool kid he is. We took care of a sweet little girl for a long weekend, our first foster placement. I wrote out the process of spiritual deconstruction and rebuilding. It was pretty emotionally exhausting to sift through it all, but at the end I found some clarity.

In June, I craved quiet and stillness in the midst of kid-chaos, but found I had what I needed. Our world changed when Little Miss came to live with us, just a tiny wisp at six weeks old. 

July was a bit of a blur. We adjusted (sort of) to having three littles in the house, and to all the extra appointments and visits on our calendar.

In August, I wondered how to be a Christian in light of intense, disappointing culture wars, we took a family vacation, and Nicky started first grade at a new school.

In September I gave myself a pep-talk. We celebrated Nicky's sixth birthday with friends and family.

In October, Little Miss laughed, Ricky and I went to San Diego by ourselves for three days and celebrated seven years of marriage, and I wrote about keeping up with therapy for Little Miss.

In November, Little Miss turned six months old. I thought about the humanity in the Bible. We celebrated Silas' second birthday with a fun, cozy brunch.

And finally, December! We put up Christmas decorations, and I practiced the art of letting go. I followed some more bread crumbs, dreamed of being a mystic, and wrote a manifesto of sorts, and gave thanks for our precious gifts.

At the beginning of 2012, I wrote that I wanted my word for the year to be Generous, but looking back, Brave seems more appropriate. I'm not exactly sure where it came from, but I spoke out more, questioned more, and took chances, not just for the sake of these things but in hopes of real change. Of course, progress isn't linear and I had to revisit plenty of familiar things (and probably will some more), but I do believe a good kind of stubbornness has taken root in me. The kind that says "this is not okay" and works to make things better. The kind that quits the victim mentality and starts living out dreams. I can only take it as a gift. Also, Ricky and I have the best marriage we've ever had. We've learned to be on the same team, how to support each other and cheer each other on. Things are not always perfect, but I think that learning to parent three (three!) children has truly made us a team, at least in part because it's been so challenging that neither of us could do it on our own.

I'm closing out this year feeling so grateful, and thinking about what lies ahead. 2013 will likely be a year of big changes (we hope so), and I'm debating making some changes to this blog as well. We shall see.

Happy New Year to you! May you tear down and build up; may you find peace; may your dreams come true in their due time; may you see God's heart and be filled with hope, over and over again.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

point the way

I would like to point the way to a God I am still seeking out, still trying to understand fully.
I would like to point the way to real hope, instead of more of the same.

Lining up to buy a chicken sandwich to prove a point? More of the same.

Demanding that stressed employees tell us Merry Christmas and fostering a culture of fear toward anyone who doesn't do things our way? More of the same.

Blaming a senseless tragedy on a lack of forced prayer in schools, never considering that we would not want our own children to have to pray a certain way against their will, or even more that God cannot be kept out of anything by humans? More of the same.

Counting ourselves as recipients of wild, ridiculously generous grace and then withholding it, or measuring it out cautiously, not wanting to overdo it? More of the same.

In my own heart, being so frustrated with these things that I run the risk of overlooking my own great sin? More of the same.

I am hopeful, and I am sad.

I want to point the way to something better, something I am seeking and finding in places I would not have looked ten years ago. This has been a year of speaking out for me. A year that began with tearing down, and progressed into a hard season of refining and shaping. My paradigm has shifted, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say it shifted some time ago, but this year I've been able to acknowledge and work with this shift. Something beautiful has happened: I can see the beauty of God once again. It is good news, and I would share it gladly. That "more of the same" gospel that I was trying to hold on to, thought I needed to fight for--it was death to my soul.

Now, I can whisper to my God, and I don't feel anger from Him, or disappointment. Just overwhelming love and grace, and when I fail, a sense that He believes I can do better, that He is cheering me on. Love, not fear. It is a delicate, precious thing and I will fight for it. I will fight to not misunderstand Him again.

It's not a way of easy answers (or any answers, at times). Sometimes giving an answer, an explanation, is the cruelest thing you can do to another human being who is in sorrow. It takes bravery to just sit, and be.

He has rescued me from my own perceptions. I believe change is coming, and I am hopeful because I see it everywhere. God is bigger than all of this, though. I will continue to be surprised by Him, to shift my perceptions.

              And we are put on earth a little space,
              That we may learn to bear the beams of love.
              -William Blake

Friday, December 7, 2012

7 months old

Little Miss turned seventh months old on Wednesday.

She's had a rough week, this one. She got the virus that descended on our house, and despite our efforts to make her comfortable, looked pretty miserable. She's probably the easiest sick baby in history though, because she basically just slept when she wasn't eating. Thankfully, we're on the upward swing. I'd rather be sick myself any day than have a sick baby. There's no way to explain to them why everything is suddenly terrible.

In other news, she's rolling onto her tummy like a champ, and is thisclose to sitting up on her own. Wrapping the boppy pillow around her works really well. And, she sat in a restaurant highchair for the first time the other night, with my jacket filling in all the extra space.

She also had her first infant massage session yesterday, which she just barely tolerated, but we have another appointment next week that will hopefully go better when she's feeling normal again. The masseuse was very understanding, and Little Miss did seem to have a better day after that, so I think it helped.

It seems like things have slowed down a bit developmentally, but I keep remembering something my uncle said a few weeks ago--"it just means she gets to be a baby a little longer."

That is a thought that makes me smile. Happy 7 months baby!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes--
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Lately I see this gorgeous bit of verse everywhere.

I listened to a sermon about beauty yesterday; about how the Wise Men didn't know they were looking for Jesus specifically, but they followed beauty and so they found him, eventually. The point was this: if you follow beauty all the way back to its original source, you will find Jesus, because anything and everything beautiful is from Him.

I love this. God seems more beautiful than ever when I think of Him this way.

I suppose it was the exact thing I needed to hear, because I just stopped what I was doing and built a pile of stones right there. I prayed, curled up on the couch while Silas tinkered, about beauty and seeing, really seeing, and melancholy and anger and making decisions that are fear-based, about my heart-dreams and my sins against my own heart. About love and regret and persistent pain. I leaned against my dearest Friend, and wondered why at times I cannot trace all this beauty back to it's Source. Why I am satisfied with  enough beauty to last the day but tiptoe around these burning bushes. In the ordinary of our lives, there is such loveliness. There are whispers of what could be, of the true potential of all of us made in the image of the One who transcends it all. I need to remember this, in all of my interactions. I need to ask more people what they are dreaming of and where they see beauty.

Fear is strange because we fear our deepest desires sometimes. I fear becoming real, like the Skin Horse, because it means being worn down, but I'm worn down to exhaustion from retreat and withdrawal. Could there be anything more wonderful than being real? When you meet such a person, you remember. I sometimes think heaviness is my own personal thorn; I can't comprehend all this energy and lightness around me except for the brief moments when it flickers over my head. I don't seem to have many answers, but I recognize beauty, and I can give thanks for it.

Looking around is a good starting point.

I may never understand my own holding back. I may never deem myself worthy of such wild, limitless love. Oh, but may I continue to know it anyway. May I somehow point the way to the Source, gasping alongside the rest of creation at the glory all around us. May I be brave enough to believe it all matters.

I invite it. I want to be a mystic, taking my shoes off in ordinary places.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Reading

I've been seeing so many good posts on the subject of church lately. These ones spoke such hope and life to me, if for no other reason than I found myself nodding as I read and wishing I could organize my own conflicted thoughts about church into something half as elegant. So, for today, Sunday Reading is all about church, with all its difficulty and potential.

  • Sarah Bessey's post about a moment in church that she hopes her daughter remembers made me cry, in a good way. 
Let her remember this Sunday in a school gym, with a bunch of other misfits, we're all longing for Jesus, we're all longing to be seen. Let her remember we had breakfast and I yelled at everyone for the mess in the house, and I put a stew in the crockpot, and we arrived late at church.
And let her remember how I cried my mascara right off, and how I was such a gigantic mess in my real life but I kept trying anyway because I had stars in my eyes, wild in love, and how I sang too-loud, and clutched my breast with relief at being reminded again how He is faithful. And let her remember that He is enough, because He was enough for her crazy imperfect mama.
  • Rachel Held Evans wrote about church, and other things, that you don't have to leave behind when you leave fundamentalism.
I don't know about you, but sometimes it seems like cynicism follows me through every church door, nipping at my heels like a pesky dog as I find my place in the pews. If you're like me, you're a little bit scared, a little bit picky, a little bit tired.
Maybe it's about finding a place where your specific beautiful heart can hear the Good News and take it all the way in. A place where they talk about God in a language you understand. Maybe it's about finding a place where you can serve with your whole, broken heart and be healed in all that giving.
  • Alise Wright wrote about the importance of staying in church, even when you don't fit in.
Sometimes I show up on Sunday and I'm annoyed. I'll roll my eyes at a cliche. I'll cringe at a sexist comment. I'll cross my arms when I disagree about a point of theology. And I'll think, "This is stupid, I don't want to do this anymore."
These are the ones who held me when I lost it one Sunday and just sat in the front row and sobbed. These are the ones who gave up their Saturdays to give food and companionship to some of the poorest and loneliest in our community. These are the ones, who even when they don't say it perfectly, preach that love is what changes the world.

they just do

We survived round one of sickness here, but now we're firmly ensconced in round two. It's Little Miss this time, with a slight fever, congestion, a cough and sad, watery eyes. Ricky's not feeling great either, and has a really busy work week ahead. I'm trying to figure out how to do the whole work thing tomorrow. (It's times like these that the idea of quitting my job for a season sounds mighty appealing. I would miss it, but I would not miss figuring out childcare/calculating how many days I can call in. I can't remember the last time I called in for any reason other than the kids being sick. And I only do one shift a week! Sheesh.)

So, there's that. We also put up our Christmas tree and some decorations yesterday, and started our new tradition of opening up one book a day until Christmas, and reading it together. I haven't cleaned up the decorating aftermath mess yet, and Silas has broken one ornament so far today, and eaten the heads off two or three candy canes. Christmas is prettier at night, eh?

Last night I loved taking Little Miss to see the tree, her very first Christmas tree, and seeing her eyes widen a bit as she reached out her hands, and Silas exclaiming "oooooh, beautiful" when he saw it, and just watching Nicky put ornaments on the tree, no matter how close together he clumped them, and Ricky teaching him how to properly fluff a tree (that man is particular about fluffing Christmas trees, let me tell you.) I just sat back and enjoyed the scene. I'm learning.

Christmas (the parent version anyway) is stress, with pockets of grace and beauty that surprise and delight. It's sweeping up little green pine needles and broken bits of a shiny red ornament, and letting them plug in the lights again, just because they're beautiful and it makes them so dang happy. It's re-discovering old memories, and it's making up for old memories. It's a big to-do list and plenty of grumbling under my breath, and sitting in wonder, taking lessons these little ones who don't have to try yet, they just do. 

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