Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Discipline of Cuddling.


i took this pic after she put herself to sleep for the first time

I have a new addiction. My old ones, including diet coke, BravoTV and catalog-browsing, are all still in tact. This latest obsession, however, actually yields a return for the time and energy I put into it. Each night for the last week or so I steal away. I disappear. My husband and dogs continue on with life as they know it while I sit in darkness, the darkness of my daughter’s room. To cuddle.

In the not so distant past I would dare not even think of rousing her for  fear that she might not fall back asleep, which may disrupt her night which would inevitably disrupt the next day and a vicious cycle would begin! 

Yes, I know, proper perspective has not always been mine as a young mother.

But now her sleep is deep and predictable, and my desire to hold her close outweighs my fear of waking her.  So each night I tread lightly into her room and scoop her up into my arms. She stirs a bit and then lays her head on my shoulder, fast asleep. 90% of her room is made up of hand-me-down pieces, yard sale finds and things made by hand, which I treasure. One of the exceptions is a plush, chocolate brown glider that looks like an overstuffed chair. It was our one splurge, and is the perfect spot for she and I.  She lays against my chest. I put my hand in the curls in the curve of her neck. And we cuddle.

When I was pregnant and at least once a week since she was born, someone with kids older than mine tells me to “enjoy it because they grow up so fast” or some variation on this sentiment. I nod and smile. It’s not that I don’t agree. Of course I do. What’s to disagree with? It’s tough to do sometimes when the days go by slowly.  There are moments when you think you may have actually collapsed into your child and  you have to pull back, delineate between you and them, for your sake and for theirs. But I also see the value in this whole idea of “savoring” their youth, their baby-ness

And so I wonder if, like all other things we aim to do but don’t always do and then regret not doing, if this kind of “savoring” requires some discipline.  I can’t just hope to enjoy my baby and future babies. I must make it a point.  A choice. A discipline.

Being disciplined is not in my repretoire of well-honed skills. I am more apt to fly by the seat, wing it, roll with it and go with the proverbial flow. But I do desire to live intentionally, as a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, a daughter, and ultimately as a child of God.  And so I will practice the discipline of cuddling. 

The darkness and the stillness, the rhythmn of the gliding chair, afford me not only a chance to savor my child, but a hiding place as well. A place not to hide from anyone, but to hide with someone, to sneak into quiet places where God has been speaking all along and I simply have not slowed myself enough to  hear Him. 

As I hold my daughter my whole being is pleased with her. 
I too am held. 
The goodness of Jesus blankets over all that is lacking in me.
He, too, is pleased with me.
His whole being is pleased with me.

My best attempts and greatest triumphs as a mother will always trail distantly behind the way I have first been loved. I am thankful for that.  I do not initiate love. I love in response , a reaction to an action.  And I want to love well, to steward well all that is mine in Christ.  There are days when I crash and burn and my efforts to do anything past getting out of bed sort of crumple into a pile of good intentions. And at the end of these days that begin and end in frustration, you know where you can find me…

Hiding. In darkness. In a brown chair. Practicing the discipline of cuddling.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Uncluttered.

I am pretty easily amused. I seriously cannot remember the last time I complained of being bored, mostly because when in doubt I take a nap. But truly, I can tinker and putz my life away when given the opportunity. One of my favorite things to do with an extra hour or two is de-clutter…closets, drawers, countertops, medicine cabinets. You name it, I’ll chuck it. I mean…ahem….reduce, reuse, or recycle it.  I don’t have the determination to have a yard sale or the creativity to reuse, so I mostly hand it over to the loving people at Goodwill who will even unload it from the back of my car. 

I did a lot of sorting, tossing, and lightening of my loads over the past couple of days and have loved every minute of it.  I feel clear-headed, and more reassured that I will not appear on an upcoming episode of Hoarders on A&E anytime soon. Harper has enjoyed it too as it provides her with countless mysterious objects to pull apart/taste and new items of clothing to “try on.”
H "trying on" clothes
My desk upstairs after being de-cluttered. Big sigh.
Uncluttered is also the word I used to describe a recent church experience.  On my way home after the Lion King weekend I met some dear friends at their church in Durham, called Vintage 21.

Everything about this place was, well, uncluttered. The building was simple. There were no excessive banners, fake flowers, 12-piece bands, drive-in sized movie screens, ominous pulpits, or wingback chairs.  The service was uncluttered. We worshipped. We received the Word of God. We took communion. We worshipped some more. We left. And in all of this, the expressed and unexpressed goal was to lift Jesus high.  So anything that might distract from that, anything that might clutter the mind or heart, was left out, boxed up and put out with all of the other unnecessary trinkets that so often obscure the experience that is “church.”

There are more books, blogs, websites, seminars, conferences, and schools of thought dedicated to exploring and dissecting the modern church than you could even begin to imagine.  It speaks to a lot of things about our culture, but I wonder if what it screams is our deep desire for the bottom line.  We want to know Jesus. We want to see Jesus. We want to experience Jesus.

Simple.
Pure.
Unadorned.
Uncluttered.

The “and how” part of this venture is up for debate. I, for one, would like to go on the record for my brothers and sisters over at Vintage 21.  I was led and fed and I will be nibbling on the nourishment of that experience for weeks to come.

Speaking of nourishment, if you have two more minutes to spare, nosh on this.  This is one of the hymns we sang that Sunday by an artist I love, who sings old hymns made new….Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart.
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground
And weep for the praise of the mercy I've found…”  

Press play for more…you know you want to!



Monday, January 24, 2011

More Sweet than Bitter.


Lawd. Have. Mercy.
There are no other words.
No, wait, there is one more.
Lawd. Have. Mercy. Child.

These last few days have been the type that will leave us laughing for years to come and with a slight aversion to red gatorade. Allow me to explain.

Eric was the camp speaker at Windy Gap this past weekend. For those of you who know what that entails you know that a lot of hours, a lot of prayer, and a lot of work went into getting ready. Eric is a stud-of-a-hubby and lets me partner with him when he writes his talks, which is really fun for me. That said, being there with him this weekend was a must. A no-brainer. And was only something I second-guessed when my sweet child started projectile vomitting on Friday morning, just hours before we were supposed to leave (and by “we” I mean me and two dear friends and former young life girls - Madison and Liza, who both achieved sainthood by the end of the weekend. Eric went up Thursday night to work on his talks).

For the sake of brevity let me sum things up in the same lightning speed fashion in which it all occurred….Harper starts throwing up on the way to the dog kennel…Cota howls for seven miles straight…Harper continues to throw up….I change her clothes at the kennel resulting in vomit getting in her hair causing it to stick straight up a good 5 inches off her head….we head straight for the pediatrician…Harper continues to throw up all over the four blankets I keep in my car….we get to the doctor’s office and the only thing I have to carry my barf-laden child in is a beach towel….her hair is still sticking straight up…the nurse gives her a hospital gown with pink elephants on it and a pedialyte juice box which she squeezes so hard it sprays all over my face…classic…the doctor she says she think’s she gotten most of it “out” and that it would be fine to go to Windy Gap…we go home…I have my shivering hospital-gown-clad daughter in one arm, barf-covered blankets in the other….we walk in the house to find a nasty, oily black bird trapped in my dining room….we try and catch it with one of the throw up towels while it flaps its wings a little too close to my mohawked child…she screams…I laugh…the bird flys out one of the four windows I opened…I put my child down for a nap…pack our life into the minivan….Harper wakes up feeling all better…and Liza, Madison and I head towards Windy Gap. Big sigh.
Patron Saint Liza and H at Windy Gap
Patron Saint Madison and H at Windy Gap

There is much to say about the good things about the weekend. Because it was so good. But the humor of it was not wasted on me. My dear friend, Millie, whose advice I trust on everything from motherhood to how to make a j.crew-esque outfit with just a few bucks at Target, told me that if Eric and I were to get the stomach bug from Harper it would most likely not hit for 36 hours. She was right. Right down to the hour. At about midnight on Saturday night Eric launched into a violent, nasty episode of the stomach bug. It lasted through the night and he passed the nausea baton to me at around 8am that morning.

In all seriousness, God sustained Eric for the hour that he needed to prepare and deliver his talk on Sunday morning, and then he was right back to misery. Thank God that our sweet friends were there to care for Harper and drive us home. Madison drove Eric. Liza drove me. And we are forever grateful. Card-carrying saints, I’m telling you. And by the way, this weekend has inspired me to create an Anti-Bucket List. Things I NEVER want to do again before I die. Trying to throw up in a public rest area is in the top 5.
Believe it or not, I have spared you some of the nastier details. Sunday evening was rough for us both but today I am officially on the mend while Eric is a veritable invalid. We have laughed a lot. Slept a lot. Drank a lot of gatorade. Bleached a lot. Lysoled a lot.

By the way, having your child tinker in her play kitchen while unnecessarily wearing a snowsuit is perfectly normal behavior when both parents are seriously under the weather. 

Because I am feeling better than Eric is I have been able to start putting our little family back together again today. I’m doing laundry, heating up soup, and keeping Harper away from her still-sick daddy. For a split second as I was putting in another load of laundry I had this sort of empowered feeling. Help me out here, mommas, you know what I’m talking about. The feeling that despite the odds I can do what it takes to keep my family going.  I know what they need and I know how to get it done. The Lord has called me to do a lot of things, namely to know Him and to walk with Him. And THIS  - this mustering the strength to care for my family who needs me - is way up there. I think the Lord allows us this empowered feeling, this sense of pride, to keep us from becoming jaded when the stress of life builds up, to keep us sweet when we could become bitter.

So here’s to all the mommas who press on when they want to lay down.
Here’s to my own momma who loved us this way in every memory I have.
I love you, momma.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Lion King and a Lion Cub.

This past weekend was jam packed in large part because I went out of town, by myself, for Saturday and Saturday night! Other mothers with young, diaper-wearing, stuck to your hip, precious bambinos can just imagine how I was looking forward to a solo car ride to be able to sing loudly, stop as often as I wanted for ice cold diet coke, and make the absolute most of being in the Raleigh/Chapel Hill by eating at great restaurants, seeing the Lion King with my mom and sister (next post), and seeing great friends.  I did ALL of the aforementioned things, and more, while my faithful hubby stayed home with our girl and had some quality time together (I think they went out for mexican twice and she wore sweatpants or jammies all weekend, but hey, to each their own).

More on the weekend later. What is noteworthy for the moment was the lion cub that awaited me when I returned.  Now mind you, I was only gone ONE night. Not for days at a time. I only missed four meals, two naps, and one bedtime with her. But my child is, among many things, observant, and my absence did not go unnoticed. When I got home Sunday and excitedly went in to greet her from her nap she smiled and then unabashedly LOST it as she called for her "dada!!!" No big deal, I thought, as I quickly put on my big girl pants and tried to not melt in my own insecurities. So I went to change her diaper and she rolled away from me, buried her face in her changing pad, and refused to make eye contact with me. 

I kid you not. I do not kid about abject rejection.

This continued for a good ten minutes complete with cold shoulder, stink eye, and "air swats" made in my general direction. But here's the thing, I have vowed to not play mother-daughter games with her, ever. Ever. What I mean by that is the trap that so many mothers and daughters fall into where the mom takes her daughters jabs personally and then passive-aggressively jabs back. If you don't know what I'm talking about you need to watch more Lifetime TV, and truth be told my mother was above this, and I want to be too. 
So I tried to seem unphased, be consistent, and sure enough, 
she came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. 

She was giggling in my arms by nightfall and my world was right again.
It's me and you, kid. Don't forget it.

And because I get lost in my head sometimes, and because I'm a wannabe counselor, I can't help but comment on the self-protective (albeit sinful) technique my can't-yet-walk daughter used. You know the one. The "you hurt me so I will reject you so as to not be hurt again" technique. You left me. And it hurt. So I will shut you out. Not need you. Because I don't like hurt. 

Reaching? I don't think so. God has set eternity in the hearts of men (and babies) and with that comes our sad and futile attempts to deal with our own pain. 

So yes, I will go out of town again because I know it is worth it. 
And yes, Harper will reject me again in hundred ways, I'm sure.
And rather than make it about me as a mother, I will try through gritted teeth and almost tears, to believe that in all of that, Jesus is setting the stage for her to know Him. 

Strange as it sounds, it is so very important that Harper eventually realize that her daddy and I are simply NOT ENOUGH.
She needs more. So much more. She needs to be rescued. 
And there is only one Man for the job.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winter.


Winter is evident. Not only by the calendar but by what I see.  Snow outside my window, school closings, the fact that my car has not moved in 36 hours, and the still-damp boots by my front door. It is rare that Eric and I lay low in our house for very long. Our life is pretty full, by our own volition, but we relish in the opportunity to “have to” stay in for an extended period of time. Granted, I outlast Eric in this “hunkering down” process as he spikes a cabin fever within 12 hours. But still, we burn more fires in the fireplace, we read more chapters of our books, we talk more, sleep more, and just generally shore up the needs of our home and our souls.

I ordered a book, at the recommendatioin of Ann at www.aholyexperience.com (if you do not subscribe, do it now), called Spiritual Rhythmn: Being With Jesus Every Season of Your Soul, by Mark Buchanan.



Fittingly, I read today about winter. The winter of your soul.  If you have walked with Christ for any length of time, or even if you haven’t and you simply are aware that your internal experience ebbs and flows between darkness and light, cold and warmth, abundance and poverty, then maybe you can jump on board with the idea of a winter of the soul. Here is what author Mark Buchanan says:

“Winter hides God. It has power to sever my knowledge about God from my experience of Him, and to hold the two apart, so that my theology and my reality become irreconcilable. [The psalmist talks about the goodness of God - His wonders, His faithfulness, His power]…but what he tastes and sees of God (or doesn’t taste and see) mocks what he confesses and proclaims about God….He experiences a God who simultaneously abandons him and punishes him…a God who hides himself and shows up only to vent himself. This is winter. It’s when God seems too far or too near - aloof in heaven, or afoot with a stick. Either way, it’s as though there is no refuge. 
Winter hides God.”

My only response is to say yes! That’s it exactly. I like these sort of moments. When you realize someone else knows what you know. Sees what you see. Feels what you feel.
It is the most basic form of fellowship.

So although I am not currently in a winter of the soul, I have been. And I imagine you have too. If I imagine God to be a lion, there have been times when he has seemed to be in a deep sleep and I cannot wake him.  No matter how I pray, what Scripture I read or even memorize, no matter how hard I tug at his mane, I cannot rouse the beast.

I could go on and on. But assuming you can relate, and assuming it is as frigid outside your door as it is mine, let’s take a second to hope for spring. Not because Winter does not have its place. It does. And its eternal purposes. It certainly does. But because it does not have the final word.

Author Mark Buchanan goes on to say:

“But Christ, the Man for All Seasons, meets us even here, in the depth of our wintertime. He waits with us. He prunes us. He breaks our self-dependency and deepens our God-dependency. He brings us into a fresh encounter with the God who raises the dead. And always, the Man for All seasons, leads us out of winter. And what he leads us out into is spring.”

Amen and Amen.

And let’s be fair. Winter isn’t all that bad. Without snow, I wouldn’t have the chance to:
put Harper in her new pink snowsuit (thanks to her grandma Leathers!) and Barney boots...
cuddle my best girl all the more because baby, it's cold outside....


stick Harper in a tree because, well, that's just funny....
or watch Cota set his sites on the next World Cup. Stupid dog.

And so if you are in a Winter of the soul, wait. Christ waits with you.
And if not, then grab your barney boots and go play.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Deep in the Heart of Texas....

Lots of things happen deep in the heart of Texas. The song says the stars at night are big and bright. This is true. I would know having been born there! I spent the first 9 years of my life in San Antonio Texas and my ENTIRE extended family still lives throughout the state. Seriously, my parents, my sister and I and one cousin are the only ones who do not live somewhere in the lone star state. And much to my parent's shagrin I no longer consider Texas my home. Don't get me wrong, I am proud of my Texas roots! And I adore my family there and wish I could see them more often than every few years (which is what we currently average). My parents would move back there tomorrow if my sister and I would join them but we are committed to the tarheel state forever and ever amen and they are committed to us and their cutesy bootsy grandkids.
So, NC it is.

And if for some reason I ever had second thoughts about whether I should return to the sprawling scenery, scorching temps, out of this world mexican food, larger than life oaks trees, and childhood memories of my home state, the following image jolts me back into reality, and stands alone as the only reason I will ever need to stay firmly planted here in good old NC:


Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. 
Wait, not done throwing up in my mouth. 
Okay, there. I think that does it. 

My aunt emailed me this pic and if the fact that this sucker was once alive and kicking 
(if snakes can kick) isn't enough, how about the fact that it came with the warning that 
rattlesnakes are no longer rattling so they will strike with no warning at all. 
Rude.

I know no one likes snakes, but I feel very sure that my aversion 
(which usually includes nausea, a cold sweat, and a genuine plea to Jesus 
that I never have to come across another snake) is greater than average.

In all fairness, I'm sure they don't strike unless provoked,
and I'm sure they are more afraid of me than I am of them,
and I'm sure they help keep down the mice population,
and I'm sure they are magnificent creatures,
and I'm sure if you believe any of that malarky then need to get your act together and 
take a long, hard look at that picture: the snake's head is bigger than my dog's head. 

Magnificent my foot.

Truth be told I do have a huge place in my heart for Texas and would be 
remiss if I didn't offer a little shout out to the lone star, the yellow rose, 
the everything's bigger in, the place of my birth.....Texas!

That's me in the middle. Nice triangular drop-waist on that Easter dress. 
There was nothing classy about the 80's.

Wow. Family xmas pic circa 1988. 
Acid-wash jeans + scottie dog sweater + fantastic sams perm = hot mess.

This picture is a prime example of Eric's beef with Texas.
How is it that a standard photo op with your beloved aunt must include obligatory saddles and a cardboard sheriff in the background.
I love you Aunt Margaret!


Speaking of beef, this is a pic of the counter where you eat at my relative's bbq joint
(Kreuz's - look it up. It's for real famous).
There is a steak knife on the other end of that chain. 
No kidding. 

Cowboy take me away!
This was taken at my aunt and uncle's (who are truly the hub of my family) 
50th wedding anniversary celebration. Eric has a lot of love for my uncle Lee. 
He represents everything great about Texas - a deep commitment to his family, a little grit,
 and an ability to turn beef brisket into something so delicious you would risk a mammoth
 rattlesnake encounter to get to it.

So although I have no forseeable plan of moving back there, I will always claim 
Texas as home....home to my family, home to some sweet memories, and home
 to the biggest mamma jamma, nausea-inducing, lose your leg if they bite you snakes.
 Eeew.





Wednesday, January 5, 2011

You're Still the One...


Disclaimer: wordy post. But there are pics at the bottom!

I work hard at not beating myself up over things that are, in the end, inconsequential. My kitchen floors are dotted and smeared with whatever my child has eaten that day - oh well. There are wads of dust in my laundry room that are so big it is not fair to call them dust bunnies. Bunnies are cute. These are more like dust bunniculas. I’m okay with that. My dead christmas tree is still up, as are my wilting wreaths. But I shall not, no I will NOT, beat myself up for it. My plate is really full and so the list of things that "make the cut" in terms of what causes me stress is always being paired down.

Healthy thinking, right? Sure. This past Monday, however, healthy thinking may have turned into what must have looked like either total neglect, or a whole lotta crazy. Allow me to explain.

Monday was, well, not my best day. Nothing major happened. I just struggle with Mondays, particularly Mondays after holidays, when all of life's responsibilities land back at your front door in a "ready or not here I come" fashion. Wait, didn't I just say I don't let these things stress me out? So maybe I'm not as well adjusted as I thought. Anyways, it was not my best day and my sweet hubby called to check on me and I just cried and spit out some inarticulate explanation about not being ready to "tackle life" quite yet. Determined to not sit and wallow I decided that a brisk walk downtown is just what we needed. So I put on some highwater yoga pants (I'm 5'11'', give me a break) and a fleece that has a fair amount of dog hair stuck to it and headed out. Between walking out the front door and returning home we ran into my good friend Kelly and her three kids (delightful), our precious new neighbors who we are just beginning to build a relationship with, and at least seven Mt. Airy high school cross country runners. 

Running into this many people you know is not uncommon in a small town, and is only noteworthy because of what I saw in the mirror when I got home, when it became evident that I had not looked at myself since my momentary cry-fest. Yep, you guessed it. Rivers of black mascara (as if I wear that much!!) ran clear down my cheeks to the corners of my mouth. And if that wasn't enough, I had failed to take out my fancy pearl earrings. Not like "preppy girl I wear pearls even when I'm cleaning the bathtub" earrings - I mean really dangly with these black crystally things.

Ya'll!!!!!!! In grad school they train us to take note of people who look like I looked - mismatched clothes, messy hair, mascara rivers, fancy jewelry paired with ill-fitting workout clothes!! I think the word we use on our little scale of personal appearance is "unkept." Sheesh. After I laughed at my ode to Desperately Seeking Susan, I successfully moved on...

...and developed a new appreciation for the fact that my 14-month old has no concern for how well-kept or well-groomed I am. In her sweet, hazel eyes I am still the one...still the one that tickles her belly, and gives her milk, and changes her diaper, and steams her brocolli, and kisses her cheeks, and rocks her when she wakes up from teething, and is just her momma. In Harper there is no condemnation. Thank you, Jesus, for that.

And because it's Wednesday and mascara has stayed in place all day, let's take another look at that doodlebug:

in awe of the snow!

            her first sledding experience (which was more like us dragging her on the asphalt):


Family xmas pic, take 7.



Saturday, January 1, 2011

my little shepherdess.


it's funny what motherhood does to you. on so many levels. how it stretches you physically (stretch being the predominant word), and wrecks you emotionally (in the best way). but now that i am well out of the fog of the first few months i am becoming more aware of what it does to me spiritually. yes, i see jesus in a thousand more ways because of her. i know better what it is to sacrifice - that to give yourself to someone else that fully really is a glad surrender. but it also strains me. my time with her and my time alone and my time with the Lord and my time trying to snag a nap or the chance to use the bathroom in peace all kind of bleed together. i vow to do better, to be more consistent. but i struggle. i justify. and then i wake up and do it all over again. and then my prayers become very circular and very raw and sound a lot like "Lord, help me to even look in your direction and even think about walking towards you today because i am tired and i lost my bearings last week sometime."

and help He did. in a hundred ways i'm sure, but two ways i am keenly aware of are the the latest Narnia movie (i simply cannot say enough) and rediscovering the enter the worship circle cd's. i love words - a well written word, a beautifully sung word, an aptly spoken word, word to your mother. all of it. and this movie and these songs are among the best. these words are breathing something sweet back into my soul. for real.

so i'm thankful tonight for harper, my sweet little shepherdess, whose presence unknowingly leads me into a place of both spiritual clarity and confusion that, tonight, has found a slight bit of reconciliation. my soul is stirring just a little more. i am grateful for that. i am hesitant to even say those words for fear that it all may vanish and my hopes for more with jesus will not materialize. but i know better than that. no need to knock on wood. besides, the only thing within arm's reach is a snoring hound dog and i dare not rub the belly of that grumpy gus.

so with the small chance that you too may be a lover of words (which don't you kind of have to be if you are still reading this waaaayyy toooo wordy of a post. Lawd! i have get to get a handle on this), here is a small sampling of waterdeep from enter the worship circle and below that some of the very best of c.s. lewis. I know it would be way better if i could like post a video with the song and have something more cool to look at but i am not that blog savvy (yet). but bear with me! i'll make sure they get more visually appealing as i go.

"faithful you are faithful - i have found nothing but good in your heart. loving, you are loving - i am in love with the way that you are. thankful, i am thankful - i had been running away on my own. and then you found me. oh, how you loved me. i know you'll never leave me alone."
faithful, enter the worship circle


Eustace, when referring to Aslan removing his scales, something he simply could not do on his own, says "The the lion said - but I don't know if it spoke - 'You will have to let me undress you.' I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was do deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know - if you've ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away."