Archive | Motherhood

The Holy Deep

My toddler boy hands me a rock and it is small, cool, smooth in my hand.

“God made the rock,” he says, searching my face for confirmation, purpose.

“Yes, sweetheart, God made the rock.”

“And God made the berry,” he tells me, smashing a broken wild berry in my hand.

“Yes, God made all the berries. . . strawberries . . . raspberries . . . gooseberries . . . silly goose,” I say, smooshing my nose to his,  eyelashes kissing his flushed babe cheeks.

“And God made the windows????” He asks, his eyes searching the east side of our little white cottage.

“Ummm . . . yes, baby . . .  and God made the windows.”

“God made the windows and Uncle Floyd painted them!!” He delights, giggles, runs off in search of boy-treasure.

I laugh but he doesn’t notice.  “Uncle Floyd” is our contractor.  Several weeks ago, he painted the window frames.  We have no family connection, unless you count this cottage of ours.

As I watch my boy play in the yard I think about those windows and whether I answered his question correctly.  Because of course man made the windows.  But I know who made man.  I know the Creator.

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”  Colossians 1:16

As mothers, we see God in our newborn children.  That’s an easy one, is it not?  When mother’s eyes first rest on baby’s face and the earth shifts and our hearts are set aflame, isn’t it God we are seeing?

But what about when exhaustion overwhelms us and that same child’s cries wake us at 3 a.m., sheets wet, pajamas needing laundered?

Do we see God in our child then?

When we have to search below the surface?

Do we see Him in windows aging into a hundred year-old cottage?

What about the times that the surface of things blinds us to the Holy deep?

It is a few nights after my toddler boy asks me about God and rocks and windows that I open one of those same cottage windows after midnight.  A strong breeze comes inside from a night that is 58 degrees and it changes everything.  For a moment I wear nothing other than that breeze and the weight of a seven pound unborn babe.  This is a long hot summer in a body heavy with a life continually growing and gaining.   Pages of an old paperback flicker on the nightstand.  A delicious and holy reprieve after a long and hard day of toddler demands and humidity, dirty dishes and scrambled eggs that went uneaten, naps not taken and exhaustion that that threatened to overwhelm.

Where is God on the hard days, when we don’t see Him but we are hurting and broken, needing Him most?

That breeze, the physical comfort of an invisible God, ministers to me and I know I have been asking the wrong question.  It isn’t “where is God” but “where am I?”  Am I so entangled in the surface of things, the cold scrambled eggs, that I am blind to the Holy Deep-the comfort to be found there?  the purpose?

I close my eyes and run my hand along the window sill.  God is the wind and the window, the Savior and Creator.  Beckoning away from a life entangled on the surface, He brings the breeze and says “arise my beloved and come with me.” Song of Solomon 2:10

As His beloved, I refuse to only see His hand in the obvious-the rocks and the berries and the good days.    I must search deeper to find Him in the old windows and cold eggs and hard days.  I commit to seek His face in hidden places.

To teach my toddler boy to do the same.

“Yes, Wynn,” I will assure him, “God did make the windows . . .  man made the windows, but God made the man.”

“God is right there.  Look hard, little one . . . beneath the surface . . . right into the Holy Deep.”

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The Mother Next Door

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It is a hot August afternoon when she takes her walk beneath the sun that bakes lawns and casts shadows through trees.  I watch her, my neighbor, everyday and wonder.

Does she wonder about me?

I would guess she was seventy years old the winter I was born; nearing one hundred this summer that baby James will come.  She carried babies herself once, I know this because she lives with her daughter.  Other children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren come to visit.

We are separated by years but the bond of motherhood is tight like a thick rubber band.  I imagine she sees my swollen belly and remembers the feeling with a memory that defies age and man’s reason.  I know this as I know that in seventy years I will remember the way his feet feel as they compress my diaphragm, making me short of breath as I watch her shuffling steps on the sidewalk.  Her hands grip tightly to her walker.  Mine grip tightly to my toddler boy as he pulls me in circles around the yard.  Tiny boy hands laced in mine, tiny baby feet inside me.  The motion must catch her eye, she turns her head toward us, against the sun, and I see the briefest nod.   A nod I imagine says, “oh yes.  I remember.  It was yesterday.”

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My wonder overflows into compassion when her eyes look lonely and turn back down to the sidewalk.   I take my toddler boy by the hand and we cross the street.  We say “hi” three, maybe four times before she hears and stops, smiles, eyes disappearing briefly into folds of soft wrinkles.

“Is it a boy or a girl?”  She asks.

I assume that she is asking about the baby, large like a beach ball stretched beneath my skin.  Then I realize, her eyes set on the head of my toddler boy, that she is asking about Wynn.

“He is a boy,”  I say.  “He is two.”

“A girl?” she yells back.

“No, he is a boy,” I say much louder and slower.  “He is two.”

She shakes her head, despairing, “I can’t see or hear much of anything anymore.”

I pat my belly and say, “this is also a boy, he is due in September.”

She smiles and nods.  I am itching to know so I offer, “I imagine you remember exactly what this feels like.”

She hears me perfectly well this time.  We are speaking a common language.

“Oh, oh yes, ” she says, the words drawn out, her head nodding.  “Yes.  That you do not forget.”

She proceeds to tell me that her first of three children, a girl, was born while her husband was stationed in Okinawa during World War II.  That the baby took two days of hard labor to come.  That she was nine months old before her husband first held her.  She mumbles something that I can’t quite make out about how the war changed them.

She thanks me so sincerely for crossing the street to say hello that I am ashamed I haven’t done so every day all summer.   I would have crossed the street if Jesus had been walking there.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’’ Matthew 25:40

I promise we will be back.

“What is your first name?” I ask her.

“Eunice,” she replies.  “Horrible, isn’t it?”

“No,” I fib and we both laugh.

Mother to mother, on this hot summer day.

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On Baby Names {and why your name matters}

There is a crescent moon on the silver night my husband and I lay face to face discussing baby names for our second child.  He smells like soap.  He is blue eyes and rough unshaven.  A breeze rolls through tree tops and our open window.  Cotton drapes shift.

“James,” he says.

“Too plain,” my first reaction, eyelids heavy on a down-filled pillow.

“Hayes,” I counter.

“Zimbabwe,” he says.

Laughter fills his face, the night.

I like Hayes, Crew and Inman.  He shudders, a traditionalist.  My wish is for a name with unique meaning- as to this child and me as his mother.

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Some weeks later, my bible is open in my lap and I am not thinking about baby names when God grabs my attention and tells me the name for our son.

First, I must tell you that I don’t wear pregnancy well.  While some women glow, I unfortunately vomit.  Clothed in a heavy robe of exhaustion for months on end, it is a trial.  A  sacrifice.  The unconditional surrender of physical and emotional self.  A blessing, always, but from the first morning one finds she cannot keep down one oyster cracker, there is no way through except one foot (and month) in front of the other, leaning on Jesus, because of the desperate need for a savior.

And so it happened one morning that the Savior I had been clinging to through months of sickness whispered to me the name of our unborn child.  I read that morning in the book of James:

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”  James 1:12

I remembered the night, weeks earlier, when my husband had whispered, “James.”  And it wasn’t that I decided that morning that James would be our son’s name, it was that morning that I knew James was his name.

And I do believe it matters.  I believe God knows me and that He knows me by name.  I believe that 2,000 years from now God will still know me by name, as mother of  Wynn and James, the way He still knows Azor by name.

Wait, who?

Azor is one of the men listed in the long “Abraham begot Isaac who begot . . . ” section of the bible that you, like me, probably scan over with glazed eyes.  (Azor is named smack-dab in the middle of this long list at the opening of the book of Matthew.)  Furthermore, did you know that in the book of Nehemiah, rarely is a person mentioned without their parent being mentioned by name as well?

“Zadok, son of Immer, made repairs . . . next to him was Shemaiah, son of Sheceniah . . . . ”  Nehemiah 3:29 (etc.)

I say this because if you are feeling lost or forgotten, if you feel glanced over in a long proverbial list, take heart, God knows you by name.

Likewise, if you are a parent awaiting prodigal son; if you are a parent in the trenches with a toddler; if you are a parent hugging a toilet and begging for grace, your name, as parent of your child, is known and will be remembered.  If you never held your child this side of heaven, He knows your name as parent and the name of your child.  Because you are loved by a timeless God.

 

Because you are His child and He is your father.

Because your name, like James’, matters.

 

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Dream Future

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When I was a little girl, my sister Elizabeth and I made elaborate scrapbooks that we each titled our “Dream Future.”   We poured over the Sears and J.C. Penny Christmas catalogs, shopping not for toys and dolls but for the likeness of our future husbands and children.  We would each find our “dream guy” modeling crew cut sweaters or long underwear and cut out his picture with child-safe scissors.  Using Elmer’s Glue we would affix men we named “Kevin” or “Kyle” to white printer paper.  We would cut and paste our ideal children from the baby and toddler clothing pages and then their clothes, bassinets and toys alongside them.   How old were we then?  Eight, nine years old?  Little girls with big dreams, eager to grow into wives and mothers.

I believe now, that in those early years, God looked down on my pages saturated with glue and hope.  I see Him now, where I could not then, leaning over the shoulder of a curly-haired nine year-old whispering truth:
“  No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what I have prepared for those who love Me.”  1 Corinthians 2:9

Flash forward twenty years and I am walking with my husband and toddler in our small downtown.  It is a  sticky summer evening cooled by heaping scoops of lemon sorbet.  Our second baby wiggles inside me and my husband’s strong hand falls reassuringly to the small of my back.  I am not thinking about a nine-year old’s dreams and I am momentarily blind to the fact that I am living out my dream, perfected for His holy purpose.

We walk along a crosswalk and two teenage girls with perfect bodies and tanned legs pass us, heading in the opposite direction.  I look down at my maternity dress and worn flip flops.  I am sweaty in the heat and suddenly feeling my age like a weight.  My mind wanders and I remember walking these same sidewalks, 15 years and 20 pounds ago.  I imagine what it would be like to be one of those girls for an evening, stylish shorts and strappy sandals with perfectly pedicured feet.  No diapers or dishes or bedtime tears.  No one needing me in the dark of night.

It isn’t until that evening when the house is quiet and everyone is in bed that I think about the “Dream Future” scrapbook for the first time in years.  In the darkness I hear the hum of our bedroom fan and my mind flashes ahead, this time sixty years into the future.  I am a ninety-year old woman, hands riddled with arthritis, leafing through photos and memories with tear-filled eyes.  What will I ache for when my present has faded into distant memory?  A slim body before it nurtured a new life into being?  Carefree days before the demands on my time and attention seemed to exceed my ability to provide?

No, I believe I will ache for the same things at age ninety that I ached for at age nine:  this ministry of motherhood and the privilege of being my husband’s best friend and helpmeet. 

But don’t we all, as mothers and wives, need the reminder when we are in the trenches every day?   A reminder that in all the hard work and sacrifice, we are maybe, just maybe, living out our dream, perfected for His holy purpose?

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If I still myself to listen to His voice, what is He whispering to me today, in the same manner he whispered truth to me as a nine-year old girl?

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  Romans 8:18

“And we know that in all things (even crayons on the sofa and syrup on the floor) God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

To all of my readers, here is to a new week of living the dream, whatever He has called you to.  May we still ourselves to hear His whispers of purpose and encouragement.

It truly is the way, the truth, and the life.   John 14:6

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Happily reflecting on the gift of motherhood this week and linking this post with Ann at A Holy Experience.

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The Christmas Baby

If you look at a pregnancy test long enough, turn it toward the light and squint your eyes, you can almost see that second pink line . . . even if it isn’t there.

I am convinced there are two types of women in this world: (1) those who are nodding their heads in complete agreement, and (2) everyone else.

I asked God for a baby for Christmas. A baby the size of a grain of sand was my wish.  But the test was definitive.  I turned it toward the light.  I squinted.  I could almost see it . . . but almost wasn’t enough.  In the place of a second pink line there was a space of white emptiness.  Do you know that space?

I spent advent weeks considering that vast whiteness;  reconsidering it’s emptiness. God whispered truth to my heart:  I asked God for a baby for Christmas and the test said no, but God said yes.

Two years ago, he said yes.  And everyday since, I have felt his will in my little one’s grasp: “yes, beloved, yes.”  Oh how I longed for my baby Wynn.  How I long for him still. An hour apart is too long.  And tonight I rock my toddler boy beside the Christmas tree.  I drink in the smell of his still-baby skin.  I nuzzle his sweet neck.  And like the creak of the rocker on old wood floor, the benediction I hear again is  “yes . . . ” (rock). . . yes . . .”(rock) . . . yes.”

I look up to twinkling lights of a cottage Christmas tree, to the place where a westward–leading star belongs.  I rock and snuggle him.  My heart in worship  “yes . . .”(rock) . . . ” yes . . . .” (rock) . . . yes. . .

Two thousand years ago, so very long before I prayed for a Christmas baby, the Lord answered my prayer.  So great is He.  So faithful.  He knew that I would need a baby.

And so He came himself.

I asked God for a baby for Christmas.  Listen and hear how great our God is.  If you are a captive, run to Him and be set free. Whatever you are waiting for, it has already come in Christ Jesus.

“Are you there, my Lord?”  I breathe into my toddler boy’s neck.  And I rock . . . “Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel . . . ”

Yes . . .” (rock) . . .”yes. . .” (rock) . . . “yes . . . “

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East of Eden

There was a cold wet wind tonight.  Biting.  I wrapped him in a quilt, thick with flannel and a grandmother’s love.  His hat was wool and his coat too, but still I held him tight against my body before walking out into that biting night air.  I remember how one year ago he was protected and warm inside of me.  And how I was grateful for that.  I was sure.

As we stepped outside tonight the wind blew damp and strong against us.

I held him tight and used my hands to shield his face. He wiggled and pushed against me, trying to break free.  Suddenly my hands that wanted to protect were a nuisance.  I used my arms to redirect his face away from the direction of the wind.  Again, he fought me.  If I wanted him to face West, he was intent on looking Eastward.

“Doesn’t he know I am trying to protect him?”  I wondered, exasperated.

“Why is his fighting me?”


“Why doesn’t he understand?”

“Doesn’t he realize that I am placing my body in front of his to bear the burden for him?”

And suddenly it was no longer about a mother and her son. It was about a Father and a daughter.  A Father who used a cold December wind to speak to a daughter who is entirely unworthy.

A daughter who questions and pushes back, who fights and veers East when He says clearly, “Eden is to the West, my beloved.”

“Don’t you see that my body has suffered this for you?”

I kiss my baby’s sweet cheek, damp and cold from his obstinance and I wonder what winds I could have been spared?

With eyes Westward,

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Dear Wynn {Your Birth Story}


“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Romans 15:4

Dear Wynn,

I wanted to sit here tonight and write all of the details of the night you were born. I wanted to sit here with a cup of coffee and just write it all down.

But I could not.

I wanted to tell you that it rained that night. That my nurse’s name was Tracey. That she had shoulder length brown hair and the kind of peppy energy that made me sure she must have been a camp counselor at some point in her life. I wanted to tell you how I ate two chocolate easter eggs, even though I was only allowed popsicles. That it was dark that night. So dark and wet with spring rain. I wanted to write down how the pain was so strong that it was like being twisted in two. And finally, that after 24 hours of labor, you were entangled in the umbilical cord, that your life was threatened and that I nearly went mad with fear. Yes, I wanted to write all of this. Write how my tears felt running hot down into my ears and into my neck as I laid helpless and flat on my back in a hospital bed. How your heartbeat kept disapearing from that hospital monitor. How they put an oxygen mask over my nose and told me that I needed to remain calm and take deep breaths of air and how I couldn’t manage even that small task because my nose was completely congested with tears and fear and the shadow of a lurking grief.

Yes, I could have written these things for you, but I knew that my words were not enough. How can I write that the cord was wrapped twice around your neck? How can I tell you the way it felt when I first saw your face? Healthy and alive? That you knew me. That I called for you when they pulled you from me and that you knew me. Just look at your eyes in these pictures. It is all there.

Only His words will do. Mine could never do. These are the words I took into the delivery room with me that night and the words that filled my mind and narrated your birth. Remember these words, Wynn. And someday when I am gone, you will remember for us both the night in which we were one and then, by God’s glorious hand, you were drawn from me . . .

“But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

“For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—

. . .
You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God.


For I will pour water on the thirsty land,

and streams on the dry ground;

I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,

and my blessing on your descendants.


Return to me, for I have redeemed you.
Sing for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done this;
shout aloud, O earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the LORD has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.
Isaiah 43-44

To God be all the glory. Forever and ever,

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Dear Wynn {ever mine}

Dear Wynn,
I wrote the other day of the curious riddle of motherhood.  How you would have me hold you all day long.  All the while my mind will run over the things that need to be done:  clothes to be washed, dinner to be cooked, and yet no hands to complete those tasks.  For today and yesterday and the day before, my love, my hands have carried you.  My arms, your comfort; my body, your cradle.  For what is the smell of bread baking for dinner when compared to the sweet smell of your skin?  What really needs to be washed?  What importance are clothes when you are warmest when held bare against my skin?  Let me not forget my importance today. May I count your every breath, that should one be missed by you, I may breathe in your place. May I gaze upon your face and see every lash that crowns your baby blues, and for each lash, a prayer of thanksgiving sound forth.  May you stay in my arms today, for tomorrow you will be grown and gone and will my arms ever be the same-ever lonesome for you?  For today may you stay ever mine, sweet babe.
For today.
May you stay.

Ever mine.

Images here and here.

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Dear Wynn {The Birdhouse}

Dear Wynn,

I carried you in my heart for many years before I carried you inside my body, and now, in my arms.

While you were in my heart, sweet boy, I talked to Jesus often. I prayed that he would send you down from heaven so that you could be my darling babe. And so that I could be your mommy. How I craved you with my whole heart.

The Lord chose to not send you right away. I believe the angels were having too much fun with you in heaven. They weren’t ready to give you up. I bet they cuddled you close and smelled your sweet warm skin and played with your fine hair. Did you rest in His holy arms? Were you there when my prayers reached His throne? How I wish you could talk while that memory is fresh and share heaven with me here and now.

While I waited and yearned for God to send you to daddy and me, God sent a different gift in the form of a lesson. The lesson of patience. And obedience. Mommy learned to wait on God and pray for His will, not my own. I wasn’t always a good student. Sometimes I would pray to God for His will and cry tears wishing for my own. I bought things for you-clothes and once a cloth diaper. Daddy wasn’t sure this was a good idea. “What if you never made your appearance?” He was afraid it would be even harder for mommy to have sweet baby things in the room that was waiting for you, here, in the New Old House.

Then one April morning, when it was cool and rainy and otherwise nondescript, God answered my prayer. For the second time in my life, I felt the presence of God speak inaudibly to me, telling me most clearly that I would give birth to a baby that coming March. Just like that, simple as His truth and complex as the holy spirit whispering to me as I stood in the bathroom on cold tile floor, ready to climb into the shower. Bare in more ways than one; unworthy me, present before a perfect Lord. There he revealed the gift of you. I stopped fretting and wondering when you would come. He told me. I believed. And therefore I knew.

Months past and summer came, hot and sunny. I waited on the Lord to fulfill His promise. I walked by faith, not by sight. I believed but I couldn’t quite see you. You were always just a step ahead of me. Still, I waited on the Lord for big things. I believed the Lord for you, my son.

The first weekend in July, daddy went out of town. When he came home, he brought me a birdhouse in the shape of a chapel. That same day, I brought home a pregnancy test. It was probably the 50th pregnancy test that I took, watching for the first indication that you had begun your journey to us. I took that test and I knew the answer before the two lines slowly appeared like a glimpse into the future. I knew the test had to be positive that month if you were in fact to be born in March, as God had promised. Sure enough, the message of the Lord was suddenly tangible before me. And I rejoiced.

I walked downstairs and met daddy in the living room and turned on our wedding song, Fields of Gold. I held daddy close and we danced. I was trembling. No moment can ever replace that moment for me, that feeling of being bathed in a warm light of God’s awesome blessing, when, toward the end of our song, I stood on my tippy toes and whispered in daddy’s ear:

“I am pregnant.”

I will never forget the look on daddy’s face, as he was lit from within with the promise of you. I remember I was wearing a green sundress and that daddy picked me up and kissed me and twirled me around the living room. I remember I felt beautiful. I remember I felt beautiful because of you. Oh how we celebrated the joy of the Lord that evening! We basked in the blessing of you. Mommy will never forget.

Several days later daddy put the birdhouse in the backyard. It sat empty all winter long, and you grew bigger and stronger inside me. Several days before you were born, I looked out the kitchen window and found that a family of birds had made their nest in our birdhouse. Soon now baby birds will be born. And now you too are here. I will carry you outside this spring and show you the nest and listen to the sweet chirps of new life. I will tell you about the Lord as I know Him this side of heaven. I will teach you how too see the little things and thereby recognize His voice. It is the least I can do for you, my tiny miracle, my living reminder of the one true living God. The finest example of the endless bounds of His love.

All my love my darling boy, on this your 13th day of life,

Mommy

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