Thursday, October 3, 2013

grace.

disclaimer:
This post was written in May? or June? all photos are from May or June. 
I have been swamped since... uh, May or June. Time for grace? Aahhhh. Yes, please. (thank you.)


Once upon a real time, there was an afternoon this summer where we packed up our family on a Sunday and, along with Jonah, the student who lived with us this summer, we boarded the ferry & made a trip across the water. It was a hot day. Hot & humid. We were going to see some family; it had been a long time.


I had everyone fed & dressed, I was organized, freshly showered & had freshly lost 20-25 pounds, wearing a new sweater & cutoffs that I felt so incredibly comfortable in for the first summer in a decade. I was feeling fine. As our children ran around happily, outside in the sunshine, the same beams kissing my cheeks & warming my spirit, I felt so peaceful. It was so good to be with family. 

My reverie was punctuated when another mama looked me straight in the eye & asked, "are you always this relaxed?"


I nearly choked on my coffee as I stifled a laugh. Maybe it was more of a snort -- I had to glance around quickly to see if Hubs or any offspring were within earshot so they didn't have a good belly laugh at my expense. She went on.

"Like--do you ever lose it?" 
I could see a feeling of guilt or shame or 'please tell me it's not just me' come across her face.

I grinned & touched her shoulder.
"Yes. Absolutely."

"What, like once in awhile? Not daily, like me?"

"Believe me," I started, "I lose it multiple times a day. Honestly."

Not even an hour later, another mama of children grown tall & already away from her looked at me with kindness & grace & said "you are so relaxed. you are such a good mom."

and in that moment, I WAS relaxed. And I could OWN that I am a good mom.

Were these two women to see me a few short hours later, these women with blessings on their lips & graceful kindness pouring from their hearts -- were they to see me with my hair all frizzled crazy & a flailing exhausted baby on my lap stuck back in a hot car with 8 of us crammed into seats as we watched the harbour disappear with distance & the setting sun -- a wailing hungry toddler in the backseat & bickering tall children, a Hubs who aches for impromptu down time closing his ears to the cacophony exploding out of our car & out of this mama's head...

I lost it.
I yelled.
I exploded.
I had to exit. NOW.

The heat. The screaming. The hunger. The weariness. 
A hot mess? I was exactly that.

But only a short while earlier I was peaceful. Cool breezes flitted the soft hair on the back of my neck as I cradled my beautiful smiling baby & these lovely mamas gazed at us & praised me for the peace we exuded.


Does the "I need to get out of this screechingly hot car NOW" make me any less of a good mom than the peaceful, relaxed person I was earlier in the day?

No. It doesn't.

But the words of poison that could flow from my tired & unbridled tongue in those wailing, sweaty, fist-pounding moments? Well, those aren't fit for print.

So yes. I do lose it. 
But I'm trying to lose it less frequently. And more quietly. But I fail every day.
It becomes such a habit, such a quick release like a pressure cooker when its reached its maximum temperature & I need to boil over... 

I wanted to practice speaking softly when I'm overwhelmed with the screeching & the flailing & the hunger & the incessant repetitive questions & NORMALCY of marriage & raising wee ones. I think I should practice more.

They are a work in progress.
Yours are a work in progress.
And I am probably the biggest work in progress. 



The stretching between the teens upon us at the top 
all the way down to the wee babes on the floor makes for some thinning in spots, some worn-out areas & even some gaps where one or more of us fall through.


But all of that aside -- all of what I've just written implies that I can only draw on my own strength. That I am independent, strong, capable & powerful... until I fail & fall again -- then rise from the ashes like a phoenix with fiery wings unfurled...

...which in turn leaves very little room for the grace of God. Less room even than the space around our sweaty, weary bodies crammed full into the car.


Ah, grace. Those moments are like morning dew to the spirit, a refreshing of depleted energy, a reminder that He is with us, and encouragement that we can do this another day.




Thank God for His grace. Thank God for these sweet faces.

Be graceful with yourself, your children, your Man. 

Pray for me to, too.





Friday, April 26, 2013

what did we do this morning? (5 minute Friday).


The internet isn't working for the boys to watch a show while the baby naps, so I thought we'd head outside to put up the baby gate on the deck so they can play out there. Collect all items. I need to find the drill. 

Head downstairs to find the drill, at which point Amos & Charles begin jockeying for position on the stairs to await my return. I can sense impending disaster with the scuffling sounds & Amos's yelling coming from the stairwell, so I'm phoning you in an attempt to locate the drill more quickly. Find it. Reconnect the battery from the charger.

Back up the stairs to head out. Jacob by now has Mr. Penguin face down in a laundry basket hurtling full-speed at the patio doors in a unnecessary but well-intentioned manoeuvre to keep Amos & Charles apart. Charles begins scrambling around the room, wondering why he's been left with our maniacal household, with Amos screeching at full volume for Jacob to stop chasing him, to remove Mr. Penguin from the basket and to hand over said basket. He most likely wants to chase Charles himself.

These boys are wrestling around & tossing the ball for the dog now. Everyone is happy, baby is still sleeping soundly, but it is so loud I think I'll put on music so the noise is muffled while baby sleeps & we head outside. Head into the office to turn on the music, followed closely behind by a dog & two small boys.

I realise the speakers are not plugged in to the computer. To remedy this, I have to pull the chair away from the desk, only now it's occupied by a small boy intent on smacking keyboards & dancing to the soft music coming through the monitor. I move him off the chair, and attempt to reach under the desk for the speaker cord. The dog is hiding under the desk, & he's scared to move past the pile of paper waiting to be moved into recycling. 

I send the older boy to fetch a recycling bag while I interpret multiple cords & switches for sounds. He returns empty-handed, feigning ignorance & trying to convince me to save every paper in said pile. I fetch recycling bag myself. Charles & Amos have a tender moment crossing paths following me into the kitchen & back again. Paper gets picked up, Charles takes up his now-familiar position below the desk, boys on chairs behind me & I reconnect all wires & music begins streaming. Jacob & I talk for a moment as Amos decides to leave the room. 

There is a sudden scraping sound & a loud CRASH accompanied by Amos yelling & Charles cowering, I run.

Amos has decided to (in less than 37 seconds) empty the recycling bag all over the hallway and drag the baby gate until it loudly fell down on the hardwood floor. 

Charles stays close behind my legs as the boys revel in their newfound 'castle fun park' of a sea of papers, strewing them farther while I attempt to pick up the hardware for the baby gate that Amos tossed end to end in the kitchen. I scold for boys to tidy papers, to shush so baby sleeps, to get the ball for Charles so we can finally get outside to put up the dang gate.

Outside. Sun shining amidst cool breezes. Dog laps up water & stretches out in the warm sun while Amos scales patio chairs & Jacob has boundless curiosity about the drill & hardware bits & screws in my hands. I set to work, answering questions, drilling holes, a lovely feeling of satisfaction & homemaking of sorts washes over me all the while steeping in the gratitude that the baby slept through all if this. Must have been tired since he was up every hour in the night with a warm head & a stuffy nose. I silently hope I can have another cup of coffee before he wakes, after I'm done the gate.

3 screws in (of 16), the drill dies. I can now hear the baby awake & hungry. I shuffle children & dog inside, set out snacks for little mouths before scooping up the littlest boy & giving the sweet dog a scratch,  only to begin the dance of this season all over again. 

These days can feel meaningless as all I set out to do was put up the gate, and alas, the gate lies as horizontal as the floor inside. 

I try to think if it as an adventure. Time to press my face close to tender skin, offer my time & my self & my body to feed, to dress, to love & relish them while they are small enough for me to carry. 

The gate can wait.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

move on.

Spring has fully arrived out here. That always gets me jazzed up.

A plethora of really difficult and painful things lies just below the surface of the jazzed up feeling, though.

Stories of children being run over by cars, mamas giving birth to sleeping little ones, vulnerable people being injured and killed by ignorance and mob mentality. people being harmed, intentionally. people being harmed accidentally. baby girls' bodies being violated in the sex trades, children's innocence being robbed from them. the endless pain and fervor of violence, madness, torment, SIN.

this world is not my home.

this world is not our home.


To write those painful and very real things out then makes it seem all that much more ridiculous to write about wanting to dig my sewing machine out and stitch up some curtains for Hubs' VW bus, or to embellish some cushions, or to finally have my perfect cloth diaper stash for two sweet baby boys' bums. Or to make sundresses for my girl. Or rearranging furniture, creating artwork, & on and on and on...


Or to spell out the combination of sheer joy and memory and love yet also difficulty in choosing portraits to make it into frames I've spray painted to get up on my gallery wall.

I don't like the combination of guilt and paralysis this induces. I feel like I do an injustice to the memory of the lost, the gone home, the ones left behind if I move on and do things that seem menial, or selfish, or extravagant.

But is sewing diapers for my child menial? Selfish? Is making my girl a dress extravagant? If I were the one who had one of my precious family members go on to heaven too soon want others around me to stop their lives in honor of my pain?

No. Most definitely not.

I would want them to acknowledge my pain, to weep with me, to hurt for my hurt.

and then to move on. Doing so allows me to also move on.

So I want to remember the joy of these days as well as the pain, in all honesty. Because they are both there, and they are both real. To feel is to be alive, no? To sit and be numbed by the guilt of feeling anything either way is nothing short of a victory for the wrong team.

Like so many others, I was paralyzed by the recent tragedies in the news, again and again. Add those onto the strain of the yoke of real life, and it's enough to topple any of us down. The ache of the world in turn caused me to have a paralysis in my heart, to not speak, to not write, to only see small snippets of joy and know how to shout pain in our little house. I felt I couldn't share because my little real-life day to day was not as deep & wide gaping pain as all the others out there.

But neither is my joy, many days.

Deep breath in. And out.


And now I choose to listen to a new song. A new voice.  The voice of Truth.
Joy and pain are part of life. I want to choose joy. I want to see the helpers in the midst of tragedy. I want to BE a helper in the middle of the chaos. I am choosing joy. I am a helper. I am a warrior!

Life's gonna get me down with babies having colds and not sleeping, girls growing into preteens, headstrong toddlers throwing food and clothes and phones in the garbage, bigger toddlers throwing everypossibleitemhecanfind into a hidey-hole beside the couch that much resembles a hoarder's nest, a mama who loves this life and loves these children and loves the Savior but still has so many moments of failing and tears... so while I'm down there, I can use that time on my knees to pray, to scrub, to pause. To smile into wee curly-lashed eyes. To fight hard for the joy in the middle of the pain of real life, the sweat of the every day, the maddening monotony of ... monotony.

The stuff that turns a mama's hair grey.

And then I can get up and dance. So can you.
We know that while we are here, there will be pain. There will be heartache, sorrow, loss and death. But there can also be dancing. And sweet, drooling grins. And goofy scream dancing. Hidey-hole pillow fights.



Moving on.

Back to the jazz.

Years ago, when I first became a single mom to my two oldest lovies, I started seeing a counsellor in college. She was the bomb. She challenged me every. single. time. I have a deep respect and love for this woman. Kathy, if you ever happen upon my little blog, know you are loved and admired and I am so very grateful for having you in my life.

She had me look at our coffee mugs on more than one occasion, to remind me of how I was only seeing my situation from one perspective. She would then turn my mug, and show me how it looked different from a different angle, an alternate perspective. Same mug, but it looked different.

And that many times all I needed to do to move on from the pain I was in was simply shift my gaze, turn my perspective to a new point of view and perhaps I would see something new, enhance my awareness, and find some balance, some relief, greater understanding and some peace. Like light being shed to increase what I can see, which in turn deepens my compassion, broadens my love, increases my joy and brings about such peace and patience in faith.


Brilliant. Moving on is not a bad thing.
Especially when it calls out the growth of new spiritual fruit in a mama's life.

Moving on over here, making some changes in my internal (and online) life where I've spread myself too thin and coming back to a happier place, a place where I can nurture our young roots and tend to these young souls and pour into my Husband, my children, our home.

It feels good. 
And I am so excited to be getting back to the joy here. Tired of the tired.

Happy moving on day to you. I'm going to pour a fresh cup of coffee. 




Saturday, February 23, 2013

balance.

I'm taking a much-needed moment while my girlie has the wee baby man on her lap. if I were to sit and write while he is sound asleep, my words would be soothing balms for the (my) soul, as I am peace-filled and so content when all the babes are slumbering and the air is quiet around me.

that's when it's easy.


what I struggle with so so SO hard is balancing that peaceful time so that it overflows from inside of me into the chaos baby screeching arched back limbs flailing tiny feet digging grooves into my lap while toddlers wail for lunch and big kids and the daddy are oblivious to all outside of what's in their own vision.

just writing that paragraph made me feel tense. the little grunty sounds from a babe who is asking to be nursed, the mournful sound that a bigger babe makes when he's tired and ready for sleep, the way the biggest toddler melts down if meals and naps aren't right on time - add those up and when the mountains of laundry and dustbunnies and dishes and downright   l o n e l i n e s s . . .

and the tender moments with the Hubs are few and far between -


it is a desert, this season. a desert far from selfishness.

(is that a bad thing? no. not at all.)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
  
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.

Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.

For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men.
       Lamentations 3:22-33

balance comes here, five children and us parents and me as the mama who feels broken and mess abounds.

this is my youth.

it is good for me to bear the yoke now, while I am young and strong and willing and capable.
it is part of what will help give me wisdom for the years coming when my body is less able and strong and I will need that strength and grit in my heart and soul.

my 13 year old tallest child, boy sprung from my womb (that feels) not long ago - tells me plainly
and reminds me
the years between him being here, under my wing
and him being gone

are few.

be still and strong and silent. bear this yoke. learning the balance of work, letting go, faith and trust.
it is good.


so I relish the quiet - and lean hard into Him in the chaos, the strain of the yoke bearing its weight into my neck, and steal away moments that I capture with a camera in my hand to remember the ordinary days where there is work to do and I won't remember the sweetness of them if I don't make a mark.

it is good.
baby's calling and the sun is shining.

happy weekend.







Monday, January 21, 2013

just breathe.


this space has gotten a bit dusty o'er the past few months...


we moved. to the island. it is peaceful. we are far too far from family and friends, but the peace is enchanting. peace for the first time - in a long, long time.

five children now. it's busy, but it's good. each day my legs grow a little stronger under me being in a new home (still not completely unpacked and moved in), a new city, dear Hubs taking on a new business with so much joy, and in a way - we are redefining ourselves as a family. many days I have to close my eyes and just breathe.


baby is here. he's a monkey bean, a dolly boy, a sweet little bundle of heaven that is already more like a little man than a wee babe. we named him Otto Nathaniel. 9 pounds, 3 ounces. it was a terrible labor. but such as these things do, it has been mostly forgotten as he folds into my arms, our hearts, our family. contractions that raged on for 6 days, so many times where all I could do to keep from falling into an abyss was just breathe. the 6th night, I knew it was time. after being pulled over by the police for speeding on the way to the hospital (Joel to the officer exiting his vehicle: "I can't wait for you to get to the car, my wife is in full-blown labor!" Officer: "Oh my gosh - go then. Go! Good luck!" he looked at me in such a panic like he wanted nothing to do with delivering a baby in a minivan on the side of the road. I thought this would be a funny memory - woman in labor just like in the movies, me panting away with hair in my face and ready to tear someone else's face off). they checked me and reported I was 8cm and I cried, thanking Jesus and looking up at Joel to report through grateful tears, moist cheeks, quivering lips with a hoarse but triumphant whisper, "that's my personal best - I stayed at home until 8cm..." - and 3 hours later was still at 8cm. dang. I champed and breathed and rocked and showered and swayed and yelled and begged for mercy - when I had just about given up due to my legs feeling like they were on fire again (just like my 3rd labor, my Jacob all over again) - I felt the snap of my water breaking - Joel said he heard it, too - and then I pushed like I've never pushed before. I was seriously screaming, yelling, begging with all of my might, my anger, my frustration at how long this was taking and at how terrible my body felt - I gritted my teeth and clenched my jaw and screamed myself hoarse as I pushed my newborn son into the world.


when he was finally born, all I could say over and over and over was "thank God he's out. thank God that's over. thank God he's out. thank God that's over. thank God he's out. thank God that's over."

he was covered in meconium, he aspirated the meconium, he needed deep suctioning. the meconium was orange. (never seen before by myself or any of the people attending his birth). when he was handed to me he was breathing too rapidly - he was rooting around, looking to eat, but was panting. I mentioned to the pediatrician "he's panting - I think he's having trouble breathing" - after which he was whisked to the NICU and poked full of IVs and given an OG and an NG and had popped a little hole in his lung (a pnuemothorax). he was a beast in there, all 9lbs 3ozs of him, 2 days past his due date - but he needed help breathing and of course they gave him a boatload of antibiotics and he had to stay for 48 hours to ensure he didn't develop problems or infection due to the inhaled meconium.

when Joel sweetly and tenderly rolled me down the hallway to the NICU in a wheelchair without my baby in my arms, we both got teary eyed as we shared how much this felt like our experience with Amos all over again. belly empty of baby and arms empty of baby is a gut-wrenchingly painful place to be - and I was envisioning that we had another long painful road ahead of us before we could bring him home. I wept bitterly for the tender mamas who don't ever get to bring their babies home.
I still weep. and I pray.





but in the days in between? the moments where all I feel and see and know is joy?

the blessing of a husband rising with joy to provide for his family? beaming with joy to greet his children, the arrows in his quiver? his smile and tenderness when strain is relinquished?

of gazing into five faces that have sprung from my body, have come alive from my dreams, the children I dreamed of, prayed for, ached for, and have been blessed with? I am in awe.


absolute awe.

this is a blessed, sacred time. I am fighting the urge to simply survive the loss of sleep, the chorus of voices demanding and competing for attention, the weight of the baby weight piled under my skin again.

many days I still have to fight hard for joy, and in the multitude of moments it is revealed to me? breath escapes me, it is so good.

Lord, You are good. You are so good to me. I smile. tears fall.

and I just breathe.






















'tis a blessed life we live.






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