Nate-the-Great is Eleven.

I am sure I am repeating myself when I say that Nate is unique. He entered this world on his own terms.

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I had to walk up and down Oak St. in Vancouver, BC trying to encourage him to come out and join us in the world. We walked to Subway, sat on church steps, enjoyed the brilliant September day in Vancouver…and still this boy did not want to come. Hours went by. Checks would happen at the hospital and confirmation would come that slight progress was being had…then, at the last moment when we thought I would have to change plans, Nate decided the time was right.

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Here he came.

My beautiful picture

Now.

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Right now.

And boy are we glad he did.

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Eleven years of imagination, creativity and laughter. Eleven years of big thoughts and ideas, of energy and determination. Eleven years of intellect melding with a heart of compassion and love of God; eleven years developing a unique young man who is becoming more and more a young man of character and wit and delight.

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You amaze me with your ability to care for your siblings.

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Matched only, possibly, by your ability to drive them crazy. Still, you truly love with a great devotion and I pray that only deepens as you grow into this heart of yours.

Your imagination and creativity is what everyone who knows you is drawn to; you capture our attention. We look forward to your next ideas and your next project, and we truly know that God has gifted you with a creativity that will continue to develop. We are all so much richer because you are in our midst.

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You are our sensitive soul, and I know we drive you crazy from time to time when we just don’t understand. I hope you will be patient with us. Sometimes we don’t see all the things you see, and sometimes we need some time to catch up. Keep dragging us along, even when we are sluggish.

Keep being filled with wonder. Keep filling us with wonder.

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Whatever you do, don’t get bored. Keep imagining, and keep laughing. Keep being Nate-the-Great.

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Happy Eleven, my boy.

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Losing children, resting in hope.

Honestly, we are pretty diligent about watching our kids. I mean, genuinely, we for the most part know where they are and we are paying attention to what they are doing.

 

We are engaged with them and watching…but sometimes, well, sometimes we just feel comfortable and we get a little lazy.

 

We go to church in an old Catholic School building. We meet upstairs, then we go down to the basement level to pick up Sammy. We usually end up talking in the hallway with other parents while the kids literally run up and down the hallway, playing hide-and-seek with a little notch that sticks out. Sometimes they run around a little corner where there is a stairwell. The room at the end of the hall is a meeting room for the church, which opens onto the parking lot, but the kids never go in there…they just run back and forth.

 

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Except, of course, this one time.

 

When we were comfortably talking away, and I suddenly realized I had not seen Maddie. I wasn’t sure how long it had been.

 

I walked down to see where she had been last hiding, and she wasn’t there.

 

Not around the corner in the stairwell.

 

Not in the meeting room. I talked to the person who was ushering in that room, and he had seen her running around, but had not seen her in a few minutes. We both darted outside and asked the parking attendant…also the youth pastor.

 

Nope.

 

Not panicking yet.

 

Walking back in, I thought back to the drive down to church when I was thinking about Maddie’s hands, and how innocent they are. I thought about how she hugs fiercely and how she constantly tells us she loves us.

 

I thought about how much our world has changed with this little one.

 

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And then I thought about what it would be like to really lose that little one. And panic did ease its way in a little.

 

I heard something though, that brought reality back pretty quickly…the sound of the the guys talking on the parking attendants radio describing Maddie’s dress and telling everyone to find her. And I realized where we were and then I opened the door to the women’s bathroom and found one of my dear friends helping Maddie straighten her dress and open the door to come find me.

 

She had to go to the bathroom and we are just completing potty training. She had been hiding right by the girls bathroom, but the door is a little heavy to open back up.

 

Heart pumping, panic done, radios now relaying the message that all is well. Maddie was a little scared as well, but we were all fine.

 

Still, there was that moment of fear, and that clench of the gut at the awareness that we live in a perilous world and we can never completely relax. Even in the places where we are comfortable.

 

I cannot fathom losing a child. I can only catch the glimpses I have had and they were moments of fear in the midst of a reality of many helping hands and places of safety. (Thanks, Peter and all the gang at church)

 

The world, though, I can fathom as a broken place where we turn around and realize suddenly that something is amiss and it throws us completely off our grounding.  Those are moments we need to know that there is help beyond us. Helping hands and those who can see beyond what we can see. Not just community, but beyond even that.

 

 “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” -Buechner

 

Yes, yes, I know. I have used that quotation of Buechner’s before. I’ll warn you that I will most likely use it again. It is simple and it is true, and more than that it lets us know that we are not alone. More than that, it gives us that glimpse that there is hope, and there is help.

 

Grace.

 

Hope.

 

Mercy.

 

We cannot simply muster these things up from within ourselves. When the need grabs hold of us, when the awareness of our lack gets our attention and we realize we cannot simply manipulate something to be better…the awareness that there is a God who is able and who is willing, brings enormous comfort.

 

That awareness brings us to the God who creates redemption, brings salvation. Brings life.

 

 

The Hardest Part.

 

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I have my favorite seat, the one in the corner of the coffee shop where I can watch all the people and wonder about their stories. The seat where I can observe and listen and think; where I can watch and feel just enough removed and yet still part of the hum. I have my favorite cup of coffee, even topped with a little heart of froth. The music is even right this morning.

Everything is set up perfectly.

This doesn’t happen very often.

Everything is in place.

Everything except the words.

I have been grumpy the last few weeks. There has been a wall or something that I have not been able to break through; like a task that needed to be accomplished and I could not get to it and I knew until it was accomplished I was going to be agitated.

 

Have you felt that? Have you had that feeling of something undone, something needling you, something calling for your attention and not letting you go? Leaving you out of sorts as a result?

 

That has been the feeling of the last few weeks, and the result has been Steve and the boys pointing out that I have been, well, grumpy.

 

The task? Writing about Mom. Somehow bringing this life that brought my life context, a memory, for me. Maybe it is from a fear that my memory will eventually fail as hers has, and I want to set her story down for my children. I want them to know her. Maybe it is because she is right here with us still, and yet not with us, and there is so much I wish I could ask her. So many stories I wish I could ask her.

I want to find the words to begin to tell the story of my mother. I want to find the words to tell more than the story of loss of her memories. I want to find the words to tell more than the loss; I want to find the words to tell more than the present. Most of what I have written in the last five years has been about the decay of her mind. Most of what I have written has told of the failing of a mind, of the brokenness and the limitations.

I want to write more about the memories that I have of the power and the nimblness of a mind which was so quick and so full of wit, and yet when I begin I find the words faltering. I find them difficult. Becauase writing about the wit and the wisdom and the beauty is bittersweet as it highlights what could be right now. It is like a spotlight on the reality of today.
So, this is the start.

 

And there is a realization. Even if the task is not easy, even if the words are not flowing as quickly and as well as I would like…once the task is begun, the frustration and the grumpiness eases. The wall that has been blocking me comes down and that task that has been needling me and agitating is not there anymore, because it is at least begun.

 

The hardest part is starting.

 

That is not completely true, because in beginning I realized what was agitating me the most.

 

I don’t want to be writing about Mom.

 

What I really want is to be sitting and having coffee and talking with her.

 

Just A Little Lack, Please!

I said at the very beginning of this year that this was going to be the year of reading, and that is proving to be true. This has been a year of reading more than of writing, and that has been a good thing. A year of listening more than of speaking.

 

I have things stirring within that I want to talk about, and yet I feel the need to let them simmer. The need to keep them close and not to expose them yet. The need to allow them the space for pondering and being stored up rather than for for rapid exposure.

 

This is unlike me.

 

I like to get my thoughts out there quickly. I tend to jump around. A lot. I tend to not follow through on thoughts to their finality.

 

I am not very patient.

 

This is not the best trait in a home school parent.

 

We have begun our third year of homeschool and I find myself with those mornings of agitation; those mornings of not having all my ideas in order and all the plans completely in place. The agitation that the kids are two steps ahead of me and will be asking what is next before I can tell them.

 

The agitation of being unprepared.

 

I hate that.  Kind of the opposite of patience.

 

Part of my lack of preparation is because I am trying to keep up with reading for my own sanity…reading to fulfill my own refreshment and deepening as well as for educating the chi’dren.  I am still finding the balance.

 

This morning, our third Monday into our third year of home school, something truly wonderful happened. There was just that moment of “Ahhh…..yes.”

 

It was not a brilliant moment of insight or of imagination or of grasping a deep truth. It was not a moment of the boys hanging on truths of history. No, it was laughter during prayer and prayer that rambled and was sincere in its humor and transparency.

 

Prayer that ended with “I pray that Mom doesn’t ground me for this prayer.”

 

A morning of lingering breakfast, of reading a novel out loud over cereal and chocolate milks,  leading into prayer and Bible reading without rush. An awareness that patience is growing in myself even when I am not completely prepared, and even more importantly, that friendship is growing among three young men. Awareness that home school is right for this moment, and that history is being learned, along with math and science and English…but that they are in this moment not the most important.

 

See…the thing is, I cannot force these three boys to enjoy each other and to grow in affection toward one another. I cannot force the atmosphere that happened this morning. When I rush the day and have all the plans worked out to the minute, often what I want the most is simply impossible.

 

Sometimes what I need is my lack.

 

This morning was that glimpse I needed.  The awareness that my insufficiency will not overwhelm this endeavor.  The awareness that I do not have to lay everything out all at once. I can hold back and ponder and be patient. I do not have to rush. There are moments which call for some lingering.

 

Did you hear that? Our insufficiency will not overwhelm the endeavor called life. In our weaknesses….God’s power is made perfect.

 

Everything moves so incredibly fast, it seems.

 

Lingering and pondering…these seem like old-fashioned ideas. And yet….they are so vital. It is hard to be agitated when you are lingering and pondering.  Sometimes it is good to sit with our insufficiency a little, sometimes it gives us the space to ponder and to linger and to find that God has done something we could not do ourselves.

 

The rest of the day we turned our attention to our tasks with a diligence that was engaged with humor and friendship.

 

So, I tuck my thoughts back in close and let them simmer a little longer. I’m thankful for those of you who keep popping in to read. I’m thankful to have a place to write…and I know there are more things stirring….

 

 

 

 

Father’s Day Lessons

I have written often about my Dad in the pages of this blog. There is no question I think he stands out among men; the way he cares for my mother is unique even though he would believe it to be ordinary. The fact he thinks it ordinary is part of what makes it wonderful. The thing is…it is ordinary for him. To care for her completely is in character with who he is, and that is what I admire. He is a man of integrity and a man of compassion, and a man of strength. He is also a man of great humor and sharp intellect, and all these things wrapped together make him quite the amazing Dad.

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He is of the generation that could do anything, and I still can’t imagine him facing a problem he couldn’t figure out. I think he inherited much of that from his Father, along with a deep love of the outdoors and of doing a job well.

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He expanded on who his father was, though, and tempered it with great compassion and tenderness. He eased the perfection with expectations that pushed us as children but did not become impossible and taught us about faith.  He taught us to love animals and photography, and I always think of him when I meet a new dog (I inherited his ability to connect with animals) or when I take a decent photograph.

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He has always been able to calm a baby, and now as my boys grow they love being around Grandpa.

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He gave me my place in history and taught me about his own history. Taught me that history matters.

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He taught us that you can stand in the same spot as your great-uncles and learn something. Even just in recreating pictures.

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He has taught me more than I can put into words, and I am thankful every day that he is my Dad. I admire him, I love him and always look forward to being around him.

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The biggest compliment I could pay him? I married a man just like him.

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A man who loves well, who acts with integrity and teaches the children that there are expectations that are difficult but not out of reach.

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A man who can plan a party better than anybody, and who can enjoy Disneyland with the best of them.

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A man who loves the outdoors and animals and sports, and yet who is tender toward babies and doesn’t mind carrying pink blankies.

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Thankful this Father’s Day for a Dad who taught me what a Father should look like so I knew what to look for in a man. Thankful for a husband who walks it out daily and is displaying before three young men what a man of integrity, compassion, humor and faith looks like. Happy Father’s Day, Dad and Steve!

YESALLWOMEN and Maddie. And The Boys.

I have to tell you right away that this post is very different from my usual.  This one is a little more intense, the subject matter is more adult, and the article I am linking contains some pretty strong language and some views most of my friends might different.

 

So, why this article.

 

A friend linked this article this morning and it caught my attention. This friend comes from a very different point of view than mine, and yet she is compassionate and brilliant and although there is much we disagree about…I agree with her wholeheartedly about this article. I have found myself more and more aware of language and attitude toward women that needs to be caught, and I find myself incredibly thankful for a strong husband who displays to our three boys an attitude of respect and honor toward women.

 

Where am I heading?

 

This article:

 

Why I Give A Damn About YesAllWomen  Be warned…there is some adult content there. Read the article anyway. There are some things I might disagree with in some of the rallies for this movement. So what. The main point?

 

A woman should not walk through life afraid of the men around her in society. Afraid that she might be attacked. Concerned with being groped in public. Wondering about what college life will be like and what the “men” will expect from the women. A woman should expect that there will be men in society who will respond when idiots think her body is open to their perusal and even their grasp.

 

This Girl.

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I think that is why this billboard caught so much attention, and is such a wonderful concept. Kudos to She’s Somebody’s Daughter.

 

(In case you can’t tell, that billboard is above an adult bookstore)

 

Here’s the thing. Yes, the issue is about raising my boys to understand how they treat women matters…and how they see other men treating women matters. That is vitally important. The issue is about awareness when we are out and about as women. There is a whole issue about how we carry ourselves and, I know as Christians we like to argue that women have over sexed our appearance and therefore we have some responsibility. There is no excuse for a man to grope a woman on a public street (read the article), and there is no reason for a woman to walk in any kind of fear of men in general culture. There just is no excuse. We have so many issues to deal with with sex, and this is part of the whole…teaching respect.

 

I so deeply within the core of who I am believe we are created by a Creator who marked us with His Image. Believing that gives no room for abuse. None.

 

The grotesque final development of the catcalls and the whistles of the men on the street, of the groping of the person on the subway, of the “innocent” advances of college hormone-driven college students is the continually growing sex trafficking and prostitution and pornography.

 

Yes, it is heavy and not wonder-filled. Yes, it is part of the story of our broken world that we would rather not sit and think through over our morning coffee. Yes, it is not what I usually write about…but it is not far from my mind when I am overwhelmed by the innocence of my Maddie.

 

There are amazing people around us doing truly amazing things to battle for some of these who have been caught up in the worst of this. I am thankful to say that some of these people are part of our church. If you are curious how to help  make an impact on the sex trafficking issue here in TN, check out the amazing folks at End Slavery TN.

 

Day to day, though? How about not laughing at the crude joke. Calling out the friend who makes the sexual comment about the woman walking by. Not just letting those things slide. When we see someone glaring offensively at a woman…commenting. Or glaring back. (I’ve done this a few times lately, especially when the man has a wedding ring on. Did it several times during my last airplane trip.) Making a point to raise our boys to treat women with honor, and raising our girls to know that they are to be treated with honor and respect.

 

There are some things in our broken world that we have to simply weep over and pray and walk through. There are other things where we stand up and we change things. Sometimes with small statements and awareness, and sometimes jumping in and volunteering at places like End Slavery. Sometimes, just reading an article from a different point of view that reminds us we can learn from each other.

 

 

Joy and Suffering on a Birthday.

We have had a week mixed with extremes.

 

Last Saturday, May 31st, was Maddie’s birthday. Her actual “day”, although we knew we were going to celebrate a week later because life has been hectic. Still. This was the day of her birth, so it already shone a little brighter. I mean, Madeleine Jane was 3. Great joy around our house.

 

 

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This little one who has brought so much joy into our lives; this one who is teaching her brothers to love in a way that we as parents never could. She has taught them tenderness and kindness and laughter they never knew, right alongside fierce protectiveness.

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This one, Maddie, is three.

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The same day, Zach and Steve were headed out to the ice rink to get in some practice time before tryouts for ice hockey.  Then this happened:

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A car driving on a separate freeway missed an overpass and came airborne over an embankment and struck Steve and Zach in their Jeep. How they walked away with minor scratches and aches is truly beyond us. The police officers who arrived on the scene expected fatalities. There should have been.

 

A day of joy and celebration marked by an instant of stark reality. Our lives are a mix of suffering and joy.

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” – Frederick Buechner

 

 

There have been a few times when the mixing of this suffering and joy have occurred:

Walking through the experience with my family, even from a distance, of my mother’s dementia, has been wrought with suffering and yet also surprisingly with joy. We have connected as a family, even though we were already close, more deeply and more honestly than we might have otherwise. Suffering brings out an honesty that makes room for joy. Although I would much rather have my mother whole and with her mind bright and her laughter full and her wit intact…there have been moments of laughter and of joy in the midst of this journey and I am thankful for them.

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When we were in the midst of the clean up of the flood here in Nashville; our hearts were overwhelmed by the loss around us, including the immediate loss my husband’s parents were experiencing. We were literally throwing away priceless items by the wheelbarrow-full, and yet in the midst of that there was joy that they had survived and there was joy in the fellowship. There was joy in the community of suffering, because we were bonded by something inexplicable and yet immediate and intimate. I still remember the Pizza Hut truck driving through in the afternoon offering free personal pan pizzas to everyone who was working on cleaning up, and our cooler filled with waters and Gatorades and ice which never seemed to go empty in the blazing Tennessee heat.

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Lastly, childbirth. This has been the ultimate mixture of suffering and joy for me. Clearly there was suffering and pain, more so with my oldest two where we had natural childbirth. The pain was different than any other I have experienced, however, not simply because it was quite painful…but because it was so completely filled with anticipation and with joy. Even as I write this, I know that there are those who have experienced childbirth filled with fear and with trauma, and with no joy. I understand that, and my heart goes deeply out to them.

 

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Our experience, though, has been suffering ending with this amazing transformation into parenthood…filled with its own fears and sufferings and trials, but filled with such a deep joy.

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Which brings me full circle.  One week ago was Maddie’s birthday, and one week ago Steve and Zach had a brush with death. Suffering and joy side by side.  I do not know why sometimes we are spared suffering, or why suffer only a little at a moment rather than more deeply…any more than I know why we sometimes are blessed with such deep joys and such inexplicable wonders.

 

“Joy is a mystery because it can happen anywhere, anytime, even under the most unpromising circumstances, even in the midst of suffering, with tears in its eyes….”- Frederick Buechner

 

We will never be able to explain away every question or every pain; we will never be able to explain every joy. The brokenness of our world is right under our fingertips, and yet, the wonder is right there as well. The mark of redemption and the hand of the Creator. The knowledge that all things will be made whole, that ache that we have that things are not right…it will be fulfilled. Then there will be rejoicing complete. I wonder, though…if that rejoicing will still be informed by our suffering.

“Our dream life will end as dreams do end, abruptly and completely, when the sun rises, when the light comes. And we will think, All that fear and all that grief were about nothing. But that cannot be true. I can’t believe we will forget our sorrows altogether. That would mean forgetting that we had lived, humanly speaking. Sorrow seems to me to be a great part of the substance of human life. “ -Marilynne Robinson,  Gilead: A Novel

The fact that Jesus, after His resurrection, still had his scars of the Crucifixion seems to say that we may have reminders of the suffering…but transformed and with knowledge that makes it complete. Until then, we walk in mystery, thankful for joy and trusting in suffering.