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Worn

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Today I write this fuzzy-headed and worn.

On July twentieth, we returned home from a whirlwind trip to visit family in Wisconsin. Someone in our house has been sick ever since. First it was me, with mastitis. Then Asher got a cold, followed quickly by an ear infection. Dave was so sick last weekend he spent much of it in bed. He’s still carrying around a box of Kleenex. Wednesday brought Everett’s fever, which is still going strong.

Sickness with small ones is exhausting. I have been “on” for most of the last three weeks. Friday night Dave offered me a night out, which sounded wonderful until Friday night, when I was so tired I opted instead to lie in bed and watch TV. I am worn.

Yesterday I read this blog post in a quick break between nursing Asher, settling Everett for a rest, and caulking the new siding on the back of the house. I was reminded of the miracle of this body of mine, the body I’m called to spend on behalf of those around me. Today, that is my husband and children. I am called to physically, wholly, lay this body down, to sacrifice my sleep and strength on behalf of my family.

The nights have been long, the days longer. They blur together. We wake in the night to administer Tylenol, change sweat-soaked sheets and pajamas. Asher has been waking for the day before 5am, so Dave and I sleep in shifts until 9 or so.

This morning at ten, Dave said to me, “So what do we need to accomplish today before I go to work in an hour?” I gulped. How could it be ten? Dave always starts his Sundays at eleven, but normally that means we have several hours of family time before he leaves. Today is not normal.

“I think I’d better run to Trader Joe’s,” I said. That’s all I have the capacity for right now—to think about providing sustenance for us and our children.

I hopped in the car and made a quick run. In the pasta aisle, I noticed a pack of spinach and chive linguine. I know people say not to shop hungry, but I think it’s also a bad idea for me to shop tired—I have a lot of fear of scarcity around both food and sleep when I’m exhausted and am far more likely to impulse-buy. I grabbed the linguine and kept going down my list.

I got home, kissed Dave goodbye, and put Everett on FaceTime with my family. Asher was sleeping. I boiled water, deviating from my usual lunch of fresh fruit, vegetables and cheese. I cooked the linguine, then mushrooms and tomatoes. I drizzled on the leftover homemade sauce from Saturday’s pizza and added a couple of dollops of cottage cheese. All this, layered in the beautiful blue bowl I bought at CB2 a few weeks ago and hadn’t used yet, wondering if I’d buy a set or return it.

After the pasta was gone, I held the empty bowl in my hands. Heat lingered in the clay and in my belly.

Today I lay my body down. But I also pause for a moment, holding an empty bowl, in thanks for the sustenance it has offered. I thank God that I don’t yet have the virus that has ransacked our “normal” the last few weeks. I thank Jesus for spending his body on my behalf. I thank God for the privilege of stumbling through these weeks, for enough energy to get through each day, and for reminding me to be grateful (because many days I am not).

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Fearfully Wonderful, Part II

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Last night, Dave asked me a question: "How would the you of five years ago have read that post?"

Five years ago I wouldn’t have read that post. Or, I would have read it and cried.

Five years ago, my body couldn’t carry a child.

We were a year into infertility. For me, infertility carried both sadness and shame. My body didn’t work right. It couldn’t do the one thing I wanted it to do.

My body was a miracle then too.

I couldn’t carry a child, but I could run. Someone told me once to find the tallest hill near my house, and to start running up it. I overcame a chronic foot injury, and by the end of the summer, I ran from my house to the top of Griffith Park once a week. I was strong.

I ran a half marathon, and ran it faster than I had ever imagined running. I was strong, and I was fast. My body did something right in a season when nothing about it felt right.

But the foot injury caught up with me. Six months later, I had to cancel my next half marathon because I couldn’t run. I couldn’t even walk without pain.

My body was a miracle then, too. I couldn’t run, and I couldn’t carry a child, but I could love the people around me with my hands and arms and ears. I could paint, teach, listen and laugh.

Right now, I cannot run. I can’t even walk far. But I can write. I can make dinner for friends and clean my house. I can sing.

Our bodies are amazing.

But what happens when everything we have is taken away? When our bodies are sick? When our bodies are weak?

I don’t know.

I am a body and I am more than a body.

I am what I do, but I am more than what I do.

My body is a miracle, and my worth has nothing to do with how beautiful it is or how functional.

At the bottom of it all is this: I am beloved. Nothing else matters.

Thank God for grace.

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Fearfully Wonderful

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It’s Tuesday. Dave and I are in Capitola, celebrating our ten years of marriage a few days early. We have Thai food for lunch, then wander around town.

We pop into a couple of shops. As I stand at the counter buying a $3 pair of sunglasses, a woman turns to me. Eyeing my midsection, she asks:

“Is there a baby?”

“Yes,” I reply. “But he’s out already.”

She looks at me quizzically.

“I have a six-month-old,” I say.

What else can I?

There is plenty to say about her question and its appropriateness, but I cannot say I am surprised. I’ve had the same conversation seven or eight times in the last six months. Each time it has played out a little bit differently, but one thing remains the same: I am always saddened afterward. Angry, sure, but also saddened.

Later that day, I grab the breast pump. “I’m going downstairs to pump,” I tell Dave. “It’s not very sexy.”

“Everything your body does right now is miraculous,” he replies.

Why do I forget?

I am weak, but I am strong.

My belly hangs loose, like a tent without poles, an empty pillowcase. It is warm like a blanket, and soft. It was Everett’s house, then it was Asher’s. It has never had hard lines of muscle, but it is a testament to strength of another kind.

My body is a vessel. Two human beings have begun their life inside of me—and that is fearfully wonderful.

What stays with me is not the woman’s question. What stays is that I have not loved my body well of late.

What would it look like to feed my body out of respect, not desperation? To exercise to bring honor, not shame? To dress my body as an act of reverence, not subterfuge?

Who’s to say the roll around my middle is not beautiful?

If I, deep in my soul, love my body, then perhaps it won’t matter what anyone else thinks. Perhaps it won’t cut when I’m asked, again, if I am pregnant.

I am flawed.

I am weak.

I am beautiful and strong.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

So how do I live that way?

For today, my answer is this. Each time I care for my body, when I eat, bathe, dress, or prepare for sleep, I will pray: Thank you that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Today gratitude is the first step.

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Book Update!

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Dear friends,

Many of you know that for the last three years I have been working on a book.  It began with a kickstarter campaign to pay for a babysitter so I could write.  (Thank you to the many of you who were part of that!)

The last three years of work on this book have been a journey up a very steep learning curve.  After much prayer and thought and a lot of great conversations with knowledgeable people, I decided in January to move forward with self-publication, and I am thrilled.

In self-publishing, I am not beholden to a bottom line like a traditional publisher, so there is more freedom to do what feels right for the book, regardless of marketability.  I also have the opportunity  to experience the process of making a book from start to finish - a complex and fascinating process.  And, as a friend told me recently, I get to figure out what exactly I'm about before I submit that to someone else's authority.

Right now I am in the process of completing the final revisions - distilling the book down to exactly what it is supposed to be.  I am working with a fabulous editor, Paul J. Pastor, and already much clarity has come from our collaboration.  I am gathering a wonderful team of people around me to handle the elements I can't create myself, like copyediting and design.  It is such a joy to watch all of this unfold!

The book is about my journey of discovering God's love in difficult times through spiritual practice.  It is part story, part guide, and my great hope is that it is helpful to anyone struggling through a difficult or transitional season.  The title we have settled on is A Good Way Through.

If you would like updates on the publication of A Good Way Through, you can sign up for my email list here.  If all goes as planned, it should be available sometime early in 2017.

Blessings, my friends!  Thank you for reading.

-Krissy

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The Last Twenty Percent

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I’ve been thinking about the last 20%. My ankle is 80% healed, my house is 80% put together, and my book is 80% finished. The last 20% is taking longer than expected.

I asked Dave about this last night. He said that, maybe, the last 20% is actually 50% of the project, but we expect it to be 20%, which is why it seems to drag on and on. The creative rush is over. For all intents and purposes, we could be done, if we were satisfied with a mostly-together house with some disorganized closets and nothing on the walls. My book could be out there for the world in just a few weeks if I weren’t concerned with making it the best book it can be.

The last 20% (which may really be 50%) takes discipline. It requires a different kind of creativity – not the flash of inspiration kind, but the kind that is honed by hard work and risk and learning from our mistakes. It requires help; for some reason, my own strength is never enough to get to the end.

With much of my life in the last 20%, I ask the question that comes to me often: what does it look like to live well in this season?

Here are the things that come to mind today.

  • Don’t rush. It’s easy to want to just finish the book and finish the house and use my ankle the way I always do, but that could land me with a sloppy book, a helter-skelter house, and another injury. I need to take time to sit on my front porch and drink a cup of tea. I need to stretch my ankle every day. I need to sit with blank walls for a while and to read a book about writing. I need to give myself space for inspiration and time for rest.
  • Find a new kind of creativity. Right now, I need to be creative about my time. Preschool is over for the summer, and I need to come up with some new ideas for what it looks like to be a writer + mama.
  • Form a team. With my book project, I have hit the stage where everything is new. I’m learning what it means to hone a manuscript, about the elements of production like the cover and interior design, and what it takes to publish, market, and promote a book. I am developing a new skill set, and I need a lot of help. I am thankful for the people I am working with who are passing their skills along to me.
  • Remember what is important. Though I want to get all of this done right now, I also don’t want to become so task-oriented that I miss what’s right in front of me. Perhaps this is a lingering lesson from my weakness. I need to spend time with friends and play with my children.

What else does it take to finish well?

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Weak

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On Saturday, as we packed up the last odds and ends and our friends started loading boxes into the moving truck, I fell out the door.

The dining room of our rental house has double doors but a single step onto the patio. We always kept the step-less door closed, until Saturday, when we were moving furniture.

I went down hard on my ankle, spent the rest of the day on the floor, and the early evening in the ER: sprained, not broken, but a boot and crutches until I’m pain-free.

I’m in some pain, but mostly I am just mad. I’ve been looking forward to unpacking and organizing this house, our house, our very own house, for the last two months. I’ve arranged it in my head, dreamed of what I’ll put on the open shelves in the kitchen and where I will hang which curtains. Four days into our move, and I’m still on the couch with my leg up. I can’t even carry our baby.

As I wander about the house on crutches, looking at boxes I want to unpack, I learn a lesson in lovely contrast to my lesson of a week ago: I am weak. I cannot do or be all that I desire. Sometimes I can’t even get myself a glass of water.

I am enough, but not enough.

This week I have been overwhelmed with gratitude. For this house, which fits our family just exactly right. For my family at Open Door, who had our entire truck packed and then unpacked in two hours. For my sister, here from Charlotte, who I trust to organize my house for me more than anyone else in the world.

I am mad, but I am grateful. I am strong, and I am weak. So often the things I feel and the things I learn seem like opposites, but they are often two sides of one coin.

I expected to enter my new neighborhood competent, confident, organized, and strong. I planned neighborhood walks and dinners out front right away. Instead, the first view my neighbors had of me was my sister pushing me from the car to the house in a jogging stroller. I entered helpless.

What am I to learn from my weakness?

A friend of mine asked me the other day what I’ve been praying for recently. She said that sometimes bumps in the road like this are answers to prayer.

I was puzzled. I have been praying for wisdom in parenting.

Yesterday I started to put some of the pieces together.

I spent the morning on the couch with my leg up, answering question after question from Everett about death. “When will we die? Will we all be together? What will it feel like when God takes off our shoulders?” (We talked about getting new bodies.) At one point he turned his tearful blue eyes on mine: “But I will miss you, Mama.”

In the afternoon, at the end of a rough day for naps, I rocked my sweet, sniffly Asher to sleep in my arms. And because I had no choice, because I couldn’t carry him to his crib and let him sleep there, I stayed. I sat and rocked with him in my arms and I read a book. The sweetness of his snores and his soft cheeks and the way his eyelashes lay just so and those few hairs behind his left ear that are just a little longer than the rest… I soaked him in.

Did I twist my ankle so I would pay attention to my kids instead of putting the whole house together in a two-day whirlwind? I don’t know. I do know that I twisted my ankle because I was moving too fast and not paying attention to what was in front of me. I’m still mad, but seeing my children, really seeing them, is a gift.

And so, as I rely on those around me to care for me and my children, my prayer from last week changes:

You are strong. I am weak. Sustain us.

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Able

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On Tuesday, Dave left the house at 4AM to catch a plane to Chicago, leaving me alone with our two boys for the first time. Hours later, I picked up the keys to our new house.  Anxiety had been creeping in for days.  Solo-parenting is daunting even without the prospect of preparing for a move.

In the last four days I have cooked, swept, and bought groceries. I have kissed boo boos, put toys away, and cleaned poop out of the carpet. I have prayed for God to sustain me.

I have been up in the night at all hours, holding and rocking and feeding our tiny son with my body. I have wiped tears and bottoms and snotty noses. I have eaten cheese and carrot sticks for lunch standing at the kitchen counter. Sustain me.

I have packed and taped boxes. I have torn up old carpet, washed curtains and pulled weeds. I have scraped, bleached, dismantled, spackled, sanded, caulked. I am tired in my bones. Sustain me.

I am weary, but I am strong. I am able.

When I remember that I can do hard things, fear gives way to confidence. What I have is not enough – not enough time, not enough sleep, not enough energy. Yet, somehow, in the end it always is enough.

Sustain me.

I am strong. I am able.

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Oh, Hello Again, Anxiety

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I’ve been riding waves of anxiety the last two months. They are unwelcome, but certainly not unfamiliar. I recognize them first by the frequency with which I check social media (distraction), then by the scenarios playing in my head on loop (control), and, at last, undeniably by the feeling in my chest (panic). There is reason for anxiety – caring for two kids is not easy, and there is both an art to it and a steep learning curve. The firsts have been daunting – the first week with Dave back at work full time, the first days without family here to help, the first solo bedtime.

About a month ago, I texted my friend Kate about my anxiety. She responded with a question: what helps you when you are anxious?

I pondered her question all day. It seems like a simple question, and yet I had not gotten to it yet myself. I needed her prompting to start thinking about what I could do to step out of the spiral. As she said later, often the best pieces of advice are questions.

I made a list in my journal that day of all the things that help me when I’m anxious, and I’ve tried them over the last several weeks.

  • Putting my phone away for a while
  • Turning on email notifications so I stop checking it constantly
  • Praying when my anxiety rises: My soul finds rest in God alone. My hope comes from you. You are my rock and my salvation. You are my fortress; I will never be shaken.
  • I noticed that my mind was looping scenarios while I nursed Asher before bed, mostly about how on earth I’d get both kids to bed by myself. So instead of sitting there thinking, I now pray briefly and then read Harry Potter. It helps. I may be a mom to two tinies, but at least I’m not fighting a dragon right now.
  • I found a new way to pray, thanks to a book I got from my parents for Easter: Praying in Color. I pray, slowly and deliberately, that God will sustain me.
  • I remember that I can do hard things. I feel much more competent when I feel confident.
  • I think about why I am anxious. Yes, in part, it is this transition to two kiddos. But I also have had a lot of momentum on this book project of mine, and I have to remind myself that excitement and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. That helps.
  • I drink a lot of tea. That’s what I do when I don’t know what else to do.

Am I still anxious? Yes, sometimes. But these practices, slowly, are helping. It takes a lot of trial and error, but trying new practices is a whole lot better than paralysis.

What are you feeling these days? What helps you when you are feeling that way?

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One Year Ago Today

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One year ago today I got one of those phone calls. The kind we all dread. The kind that made me slip out of church when I saw the voice message to call right back and get details. The kind that made me sit on the bench outside for a moment to collect myself before I slipped back in.

Grammy, my dad’s mom, had a stroke. She was in an ambulance on the way from the farm to the hospital St. Louis. They didn’t know much yet.

I was heart-broken and angry. This is why we were supposed to move to the Midwest, I thought. If we lived in the Midwest, I would be there. “Get on a plane,” Dave told me. “Go be with your family.”

So I got on a plane Tuesday morning, and my parents picked me up and brought me to the hospital. I sat by Grammy’s bed in the ICU. I told her who I was and she squeezed my hand. She knew me.

I stayed for two days, then extended my trip for a third. We sat in the hospital, waiting. I sang hymns to her, read scripture. My grandma was a singer and loved nothing more than a good hymn. I gave her a river rock I had picked up on the farm six months before; she slept with it in her hand. My dad and I spent one night in the hospital, taking turns sleeping in the chair in her room. We kept vigil. I swabbed her mouth with a wet sponge when it got dry and thought of Jesus.

I sat with my aunts and uncles and flipped absently through magazines. I painted in my journal with watercolors. I gave my Papa lots of hugs. The doctors removed her feeding tube, took her off of fluids. She was ready, and we all knew it.

Friday morning, we all held hands around her bed and sang, in wavering voices, How Great Thou Art. When we reached the last verse, she opened her mouth to silently form the words along with us:

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow with humble adoration, And there proclaim, "My God, how great Thou art!"

Tears poured down our faces. I said goodbye.

I came back a week later for her funeral, bringing Everett with me. He was too small to fully comprehend what was happening, but he knew that Great Grammy was in heaven. He followed Great Papa all over the house and yard, playing trains, reading books, and helping him fill the bird feeders while my sister and I cooked and cleaned.

We buried her with a river rock in her hand.

I came home.

Since then, I have felt a lingering question – what happens to people in my community when they reach the ends of their lives? Who is with them, if they don’t have family nearby, in those final, lingering days? I googled nursing homes in my area, thought about volunteering or visiting, but couldn’t quite figure out the next step.

Then I opened my eyes.

This morning on our way out the door for preschool, Everett spotted our neighbor across the street. “Hi!” he yelled at the top of his little lungs. “Hi! I’m just going to school!” He yelled and waved until she smiled and waved back. She’s retired and lives alone. Her husband passed away last year.

On Valentine’s day, Everett delivered homemade valentines to several of our neighbors, all in their 70’s and 80’s. Several of them invited us inside. One said, in Spanish, “I love you. I’m sorry, I love you! I am so grateful to have you as neighbors. Your babies are so beautiful.” She sent us home with a bag of fruit. One neighbor showed Everett where the Thanksgiving card he made was still on her fridge, and she put the valentine next to it.

A few weeks ago, we invited several neighbors over for a bowl of soup. We had a table full. We talked about their grandkids – some in Los Angeles, some up the street. Everett didn’t want them to leave.

The people I am called to love are the people right in front of me. I just have to be brave enough to walk across the street.

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An Opportunity

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Friends,

Many of you know that I have been working on a book for the last two years. In fact, it was almost exactly two years ago that I woke up at four o’clock in the morning with the sudden knowledge that I needed to write one. I finished the manuscript last June, and since then I’ve been working toward publication.

The book is about a challenging season of my life, starting with infertility and ending with our transition to the Bay Area. Those years were full of unexpected hard things, and yet in the midst of them I found a way of living well. Through practices of art and poetry, relationship and contemplation, I began to believe in my own belovedness in a profound new way.   The book itself is part memoir, part practice; my hope is that it can become a helpful companion for anyone caught at an unexpected bend in the road.

After some time away from working on my book to focus on our growing family, I am picking it back up again. As I continue to move toward publication, I am looking for a small group of people to read through the book and work through some of the practices. I want the book to be helpful, and I need a few more eyes on it before I am satisfied.

If we are good friends, I’m afraid you will have to wait – I need people who don’t already know my story.   I also need people from a few different demographics – men and women of a variety of ages and situations. If someone you know might be interested, please share this with them.

If you would like to participate, please contact me through the form on the About page of this website and tell me a little bit about yourself. If you are selected, I’ll be in touch with more details. In thanks, you’ll get a copy of the book when it is finished. If you are not selected (because I already have enough readers in your demographic), I’ll still send you the first chapter in gratitude. I will comment below when I have enough readers.

Thank you to all of you who have helped me along the way!

Be well.

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Have Two, Give One

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Every Tuesday afternoon, Everett’s friend Everett comes over to play. They miss each other on days they don’t get to play. They make each other giggle late into the night when they have sleepovers. They are the best of buddies, like brothers. Some days, they also fight like brothers.

On Tuesday, the moment they walked in the door, they both wanted to “be the baby.” Everything of Asher’s was suddenly the most desirable toy in the room. We are trying to teach Everett that part of hospitality is allowing a guest to play with whatever he or she wants, because he can play with his toys any time. On Tuesday, this just wasn’t working. Asher’s play gym was in Toy Jail within fifteen minutes.

I was making lunch when I overheard these words from Everett’s bedroom: “Everett Kludt, you are SO nice! You’re my best friend!”

The boys came running out to show me. “Mama, I did something so nice for Other Everett! I gave him my other hat!”

Everett has a Lightning McQueen Disneyland hat that he adores. He wears it every day, even sleeps in it sometimes. He lost it a few months ago, and because he has a very generous aunt, ended up with two replacements. He has been thrilled with this the last few weeks, often wearing two hats at a time.

I clarified with him, “You gave it to him to borrow, or you gave it to him forever and ever?”

“Forever and ever!”

Both boys were grinning ear-to-ear, and I was so proud of my little boy.

The rest of the day was a breeze. Through one act of generosity, Everett changed the course of the afternoon. Now both boys were happily sharing toys back and forth, playing baby and trains and bouncing on the couch (which we encourage).

Have two, give one. This is a command I rarely follow.

On Wednesday, Everett spent two hours carefully putting heart stickers all over valentines for his class, his family, and our neighbors. Twenty valentines in, he said, delighted, “Mama, these hearts will make my children at school so happy!” I have so much to learn from my son.

Our church family at Open Door has been bringing us meals three times a week since Asher was born seven weeks ago. We have several weeks of meals still coming. Dave said to me the other night, “What if once a week we just made a double portion and brought someone a meal?” I love the idea. I’m not quite ready for it yet, but maybe soon.

I’m going to watch for opportunities to be generous. What can I do today?

Nikki, I’m putting those yoga pants in the mail. They fit you better anyway.

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The Stories We Tell

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Let me tell you a story.

One morning, just a few days after Asher was born, I told Everett, “We’re going to go on a special Mama/son date today!” It would be our first time alone together since he became a big brother. I wanted so much for him to know how precious he is to me. We decided to go to Peet’s for a “sparkle cookie.”

We got into the car, and suddenly Everett was sad. “I don’t want to go.”

“What do you mean, buddy? Why not?”

“I want to bring Asher.”

“You want to bring Asher on our Mama/son date?”

“Yes.”

“It’s ok for you to have some special time with me without Asher, too.”

“I know, but not today.”

So I went back into the house and loaded up Asher and his diaper bag, and off we went to Peet’s. Everett wanted to push the “carriage,” as he called the stroller. (Thank you, Daniel Tiger.) He pushed his little brother into the coffee shop, beaming with pride.

The three of us sat at Peet’s and Everett and I ate cookies while Asher peered around silently with wide eyes. Then we stopped at the playground where Everett went down the big slide all by himself “because I’m a big brother now.”

There are so many other stories I could tell you. Stories of sleep deprivation, of complete meltdowns, of trying to figure out how to lovingly, firmly parent a preschooler whose world has just turned upside down. Those stories are important, too. It’s important to name the hard things about this season. But when those stories become the only stories I tell, they become all this season is about.

I’ve been thinking about the stories we tell. They have so much power to shape our reality. The stories become memories, and those memories shape who we are. I know this is true with Everett, and on a hard day I will often tell him a story about the day before bed, ending with a reminder about how much we love each other. The stories I tell shape my reality, too.  What reality am I shaping?

I want to remember the good things about this season, and so I need to tell those stories.

My friend Kate, who also just had a baby, is my go-to middle-of-the-night text buddy. We commiserate about the sleep deprivation and how often our boys are waking. It’s been so helpful to talk with someone who knows exactly how hard this can be. It helps me feel normal.

Today we committed to telling each other one good story every day. This morning we started with snuggles and sweet moments between siblings.

I feel better already.

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A Thought and a Question

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Today I remember the other dormant seasons of my life: Everett's birth, the weeks after his surgeries, the months of settling into our new life in the Bay Area.  They were winter times - times of stillness, of turning inward, of life and growth unseen.  I remember all of the good things that have come out of those seasons.  There have been so many surprises: friendships, grace, empathy, and a closeness with God I had never imagined.

That brings me to the question I will hold in these winter days: what gifts will this season bring?

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How are you doing?

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How are you doing?

It’s an impossible question right now. I need to start answering with another: how long do you have?

How am I doing? I am feeling every-which-way. I am in love, resentful, grateful, exhausted, panicked, proud, overwhelmed, joyful, angry and oh-so-responsible.

I was talking with my friend Kate the other day about all these feelings. Her advice was this: cry, pray, and move on. It’s good advice. The trouble is, I keep skipping to step three: just move on. Just keep playing trains with the big one, keep nursing the little one, keep laundry clean and everyone fed.

Last night I started to fall apart on the way to Chuck E. Cheese’s for a birthday party. It started before we left home when Dave mentioned that he needed a haircut, and suddenly I was overwhelmed once again by how my family so tangibly, physically needs me right now. And then there we were in Chuck E. Cheese’s parking lot, and Dave said, “Why don’t you stay in the car for a few minutes while I bring the boys inside?” but I said no and I took a deep breath and swallowed the tears gathering in the back of my throat and we went inside. But I shouldn’t have. I know better. I know that when I’m sad I need to sit there in that awful parking lot and just have a good cry. I know that when I’m angry I need to go kick a ball. Because when I don’t, it all comes out sideways and hurts the people I love most, usually Dave.

Later that night, after some of the sadness exploded out sideways, as it always does, Dave asked me to do something. “Name what you need,” he said.

Me? Need? I’m not allowed to have needs right now. My job is to suck it up, move on, and meet everyone else’s needs.

But I can’t function well that way for five minutes, let alone for a month. It hurts me, and it hurts everyone around me.

So now what? I’m still feeling every-which-way. I don’t have this figured out.

But today I will write this here so that I can remember:

Cry. Pray. Move on.

Name what you need.

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Exposed

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FullSizeRender (2)

Sleep deprivation is crazy-making. Asher is a relatively good sleeper for a two-week-old, but I am still up for hours in the night, catching sleep in bursts whenever I can. The lack of rest makes me fragile and cranky.

Dave and I were chatting in the car the other night about how we are doing and what we need. Sleep was a theme. He asked me this question: what if you were to look at it as a kind of fast?

I hate fasting. It brings out the ugliest in me. When my body is deprived, it feels that there’s not enough of me left to be all the things I want to be – kind, considerate, aware of the needs of others. Dave talked about how he pays attention to those things when he fasts – how fasting helps him realize his own brokenness. “Maybe I’m not as nice as I think I am.”

So I’ve been paying attention the last few days. What are the things coming up within me now that my body is deprived of a basic necessity? Fear. Resentment. Anger. Feelings of scarcity. How often those things lurk under the surface, where I am able to hide them when I’m well-fed and rested. Now that they are exposed, what am I to do with them?

For right now, I need a practice that is very simple, something I can do in the middle of the night when these things tend to surface. For right now, it will be this prayer:

God, I am feeling ______. I offer my ______ to you. Please give me eyes to see your _______.

God, I am feeling fear. I offer my fear to you. Please give me eyes to see your provision.

God, I am feeling resentment and anger. I offer my resentment and anger to you. Please give me eyes to see your forgiveness and grace.

God, I am feeling scarcity. I am afraid there won’t be enough – enough sleep, enough time, enough of me for both of my children. I offer my feelings of scarcity to you. Please give me eyes to see your abundance.

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The Days of Small Things

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FullSizeRender (1).jpg

“Suck, baby, suck!” Everett yells, perched on my knees, claiming his territory on my lap. Asher alternately complies and screams in frustration, not quite sure yet exactly how to access the milk he so desperately wants.

Later, we are at Peet’s, Everett and I sharing our ginger cookies while Asher peers around him, wide-eyed.

These are the days of small things. Asher is one week into life; we are one week into being a family of four. Everything has changed, as we knew it would. We are still in the drowning phase, doing all we can to get everyone enough sleep to keep going.   How, in the midst of this, do I find myself sustained, even transformed?

I am not responsible for my own transformation, but I am responsible for making space for God to transform me, and that requires action. To try to do anything right now seems impossible, and yet my soul requires it. Today I ask myself three questions:

What shall I do that is worth the cost?

Right now, I will write in my journal every day, even if it is just a sentence or two. I am not usually a daily journaller, but I feel within me the need to pause each day and pull myself out of the fog. I need the reminder that there is more than just monotony to these days; each day has its moments of beauty, and life is growing and changing as the days fly by. It is not easy to find five or ten minutes each day – sometimes it’s two minutes while Everett helps Dave change Asher’s diaper. I close my Facebook and Instagram, I sacrifice a few precious minutes of sleep, and I write. It’s worth the cost.

Of what do I have an abundance?

We all have an abundance of something. Right now, I have an abundance of wakeful hours in the night to pray for those I love. I also have an abundance of snuggle time with two beautiful boys made in the image of God. I will pray; I will marvel.

What am I already doing that I can do with intention?

The Spirit of God dwells within me; everything I do is a spiritual act. How can I remember that on days filled with diapers and spit up and spills? My mantras for these days will be:

Jesus, please walk with me.

and

Let me see you in the faces of my children.

May the God of peace who dwells within us teach you gently how to open yourself to Love.

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I Hate Waiting

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FullSizeRender.jpg

So, it turns out that waiting is actually really hard.

It’s easy for me to wax poetic about waiting in the season of Advent, and there is a lot of beauty there.

But I hate waiting.

I’m waiting for something good, something that I know will happen one way or another in the next couple of weeks, and I’m tearing my hair out. Waiting is harder when I don’t know if the thing I’m waiting for will ever happen, let alone when. Waiting is far harder when I’m waiting for something I’m not look forward to – waiting for the axe to fall, as they say. All things considered, I have it easy.

Living in limbo is uncomfortable at best, excruciating at worst. Sometimes it requires more of us than we feel we have to give, and yet we keep going, because there is no alternative.

For what are you waiting? Will you wait with me?

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Due Date

Due Date - 1
Due Date - 1

Any moment now, with a wrenching pain or a rush of water, our lives will shift forever.  For now, we wait.  For now, we play in the rain.

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Now Is All We Have

Tilden Overlook - 1
Tilden Overlook - 1

Advent is a season of anticipation, of waiting in the mess of now for the joy, blessing and healing to come. I feel the anticipation in my bones.

A child grows within me, his or her movements stronger and more pronounced with every passing day. One day soon, in a glorious mess of pain and effort, she or he will enter the world. I am ready.

Today I look down from the office where I write and I see Everett on the preschool playground. He is running, running, running, and soon there is a mob of kids, all running, running, running as fast as their little legs can take them. He is so excited to meet our baby, though he has little knowledge of what this change will mean for his world. What a privilege to watch him, unseen, from this distance.

Some days I am anxious. On Friday I felt the imminence of birth in the persistent squeeze of my belly. I slept little, waiting for the pain to strike at any moment, but it didn’t come. I woke in the morning and the feeling had passed.

I stand at a threshold; everything in my life is about to change. How do I linger well in now?

Tonight, Dave and I will go to a movie. Tomorrow, dinner with friends. I will watch Everett intently, hold him close, share with him the intensity of focus that I know is about to change. I also know that I will love him all the more as he becomes a big brother; my heart, like my ligaments, is stretching, shifting, making room.

Paula D’Arcy writes of going to the woods this time of year. “In the woods, nothing rushes. The woods laugh that any date on a calendar seems more real or important than this very morning…. The woods teach me that the only entry point to divine love is now. This moment is all there is.”

Here, now, is the place we meet God.

I feel the coming change in my bones as they shift and bend, opening a path. They ache with the effort of preparation. And yet, now is all I have.

I take a deep breath, feel the air stretch my lungs. I watch the bare branches sway outside. I look down and see Everett climb onto a tricycle and ride in loops around the playground.

I am grateful. I am full.

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Fasting and New Practice (A Cruciform Conflict)

Open Door
Open Door

This week I had the privilege of speaking at Open Door as we continued our journey through the book of Mark. Here are the questions we are going to think about and act upon together this week:

Is there an old spiritual practice I am being asked to let go of?

What new practice could I try that might better open me to the love of God right now, in this season?

You can listen to the talk here.

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