Sunday, April 14, 2013

They Hold Our Hearts

When a baby is first thrust from the womb and into our world, their tiny lungs fill with our air while a fresh cry rushes out of them. When you pry open their fist to savor the little, the wrinkles, the perfection, it appears their hands are empty. It appears as if they've brought nothing into their new existence but every mother, father, grandparent and relative of that baby knows this isn't true.  

From the moment the doctor first confirms our greatest hope, “You’re having a baby.” to that unforgettable moment we hear their cry and hold their trembling body against our own, we know they hold our heart in that tiny, wrinkled fist.  There is nothing we wouldn’t do for them.  And everything we have is now theirs; our time, devotion, prayers, passion...our very lives we would lay down if it were required.  They hold our hearts and our hopes for the future.

When hopes for the future and a hopeless diagnosis collide, the heart breaks.  And that baby who suffers; the little one poked with a needle, monitored on a machine and staring outside from the confines of a hospital room breaks the heart of their parents and relatives and of each one of us.  Because we have held our own babies, the babies of our sister, the babies of our friends and we know the love that ignites at first touch.  The unstoppable and unfathomable love that grows into a force so great we’re willing to live and die for that child.

Tonight, a baby that is more than likely being rocked to sleep amidst a tangle of cords and IVs is what keeps me awake. He’s not my baby but his suffering has reached far beyond the confines of his hospital room and immediate family.  The ripple-effect of his life has touched everyone that has come in contact with him and though he is not our baby, somehow his tiny fist has captured the heart of not only his mother, father and relatives but of a watching world.  His cry has brought us to tears.  His pain has brought us to our knees.  His journey has made us seek and question the God that so carefully and wonderfully formed him in his mother’s womb.  And answers seem beyond the grasp, beyond the understanding of our minds.  And it hurts.

But the magnitude of emotions in this splintering heart does not compare, could not even begin to understand the journey of emotions of his own mother who must have first heard the doctors, “You're having a baby!” and felt that overwhelming burst of love and hope for the life within.  How to understand the fear and desperation of the father that must have laid his hand, his ear and his dreams on the swell of his wife’s belly, only to hear months after meeting his anticipated child a dark and frightening diagnosis.  How to help carry their burden?  Shoulder this pain?  Walk with them in this journey?

And answers seem beyond the grasp... and it hurts.

Tonight, I kiss my children’s forehead while they sleep, sure the sweet baby sleeping under the soft fluorescent glow of a hospital light has had his forehead kissed bare.  Tonight, I beg God with words that feel weak and shaky to let this be the future for the parents waiting, watching, desperate and hopeful.  Tonight, I dream of a night that they would pull warm blankets up to a sleepy, little chin in their own home, away from IVs, needles and fear.

And tonight I know, no matter what the future holds, there is One who loves this baby with even greater passion and more intensity than every person that was in the room when he hollered his first cry in our big, confusing world.  Somehow I know if we could see with different vision, we’d see this God whom we seek and question is in this baby’s room tonight too.  He’s big enough to command the universe, yet small enough to fit into a chair next to a hospital crib.  And that bare spot on the sleeping baby’s head?  I think He kisses it too.

And while the baby rocks, while emotions rock, while the future seems to rock between fear and faith, He remains.  He loves, creates, rejoices over and gifts each life we cherish.  And no matter what comes tomorrow, He remains.  He holds.  He’s here.

From the moment a baby is born  into our world and you pry open their fist, you may not see it, but they hold our hearts.  Each day with them is a gift to cherish and through it all, He holds us.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mother's Day Watering-Can Gift Idea!

Yep, it's that time of year again, peeps!  
MOTHER'S DAY!!!!!!!!!!

Like 'em or not, everyone has one and what better excuse than Mother's Day to celebrate their decision to give us life... and then later, when we are teenagers, attempt to take us out!  Oh, wait, my mom never did that...(really, she was TOO nice to me when I was a sassy teen!).  I don't know if I'll follow in her sweet lil' footsteps but I'll sure as heck try!

And if you are like me (though for your sake, I pray that isn't the case!), you are racking your brain this time of year to think of what to give Mother Dearest.  Something from the heart, of course and perhaps on a reasonable budget (boring I know but I have to answer to boss-man there!).  

This is an idea I came up with last year (though I'm sure it's been done before, I'm not that original!!) and it turned out to be pretty fun to make (minus the mess and mayhem and drama and...hmmm...maybe it wasn't that fun to make come to remember now!).  So, I thought I'd pass it along this year to you, my dear blogger-friend, in case you want to give it a whirl.  

The main cost other than the watering-cans and a bit of paint is the price of time.  It really is a two-for-one-deal:  You get the finished product of the gift and the kids get to dunk their feet in paint and make a crazy-mess.  Mama's happy, kid's are happy, that's a win-win I'd say!

Here's the step-by-step instructions:
(Note: all photographs were taken by a four-year-old since my hands were covered in paint so they may not be of exceptional quality, please just go with it.)

Prepare your station.  Set up the paints you want to use (pick any color theme of your choice, I let the kids each pick what color they wanted) and if you have it, throw down some big paper or a drop cloth for them to clean their feet off before running on your white carpet inside (live and learn).

Make a pile of paint, dunk the kid's foot and press onto watering-can. (Yes, this is WISCONSIN at this time last year...try not to be too depressed at the memory of it)

Gabby picked orange paint and ate some of the blue.  Glad I got cut off in the picture, I think I was having a revisit to the teen-facial-break-out days.

It was difficult to find Judah's foot under all the DIRT, but wet-wipes are salvation. (Note, I have never been asked to be a hand-model, don't ask me why they look like granny-hands here!)

Once all feet are painted on (I made two by the way, one for my mother and one for the MIL, hope I scored some points for that!) and names/ages if you so desire then spray on a few good coats of an OUTDOOR, CLEAR, PROTECTIVE coating. VERY important if you don't want the foot-prints to wear off since this will be holding water!!

Also, after posting this, my mother pointed out an IMPORTANT detail I spaced on (mommy-brain-drain?), I painted, "Grandchildren leave footprints on the heart" along the top.  She also suggested (if only I had HER brain!) you could paint on something about "Little Helping Hands or Feet" and use handprints with the same saying (above) instead.  

As for the paint, any kind is okay (I used acrylic crafting paint, purchased at any craft store or Wal-Mart) as long as you have a good, thick coat of the protection spray-paint upon completion!  

Here's my gang before church posing with the watering-can, shouting stuff like, "How much longer do I have to hold this fat baby??" and, "Water is leaking on my pants, Mom!"  Love them.  We got through it and everyone got too many marshmellows to qualify me for Mother-of-the-Year award.

This is my beautiful mom!!  She's the best (I know, you think the same about your mom too). She loved it (I had the kids hand them out, again, using a marshmallow-bribery-reward if they did it with big smiles and hugs!!) 
(I look really tired here, must have stayed up too late spray-painting watering-cans!  They are worth it.  Just thought I'd throw that in for your sake, Mom.  Love me more now.)

Oh, I should mention: I picked up two bouquets of flowers to give the watering-cans with, just seemed to jazz up the gift a bit more since it could be used as a vase if so desired!

This is my oldest girl and my beautiful MIL, she's the best too!

My goofy boys and my patient, lovely mother.

Happy Mother's Day to all YOU lovely moms and to my own mother and mother-in-LOVE!!

Sunday, March 10, 2013


In a house where the ticking clock can at last be heard, where deep breathing luls children to a world of peaceful dreams, here I sit. Here, at last, at the foot of the cross I sit: the only place the earth is ever level.

Here I am; broken, hurting, shaken.  Here I am and tonight, that’s who I am.  Yet I know, because I’m me and in spite of me, You love me. You love us, and I am speechless.

So it’s forehead and knees pressed hard to the ground at the foot of the cross: this Calvary ground. This rough and lonely ground You walked carrying a cross on a back where blood and splinters kissed.

You walked alone, carrying your door to death. You submitted Your will, Your needs and Your questions to the One, the Father, who loves You and this aching world with passion unrivaled.  Because of that, Your door to death became our bridge to life eternal. What appeared to be the end of your future was the beginning of ours.

And on that fateful night when water burst from the puncture of a spear that tore through innocent flesh, when the final burst of blood exited your human/God-heart, did water flow and blood drain from the faces gathered watching, standing and kneeling on this rough and lonely Cavalry ground?

Did they understand the pain of your suffering was the only currency qualified to pay the ransom of their release...of our release?

Did the heavenly silence following your passionate question, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” remind each of them within the sound of your cry of their own cries ending in question marks that never gave way answers?

When the question hung,

flesh tore,
water burst,
and heart collapsed,

Did the hill empty?

And as the crowds on Calvary went home, did the lips kissing their babies goodnight press hard to hold back tears of sorrow or murmur curses to cope with the seeming end of all hopes?

Did the hands that had waved palm branches and grabbed their children’s faces, exclaiming, “OUR KING HAS COME TO SAVE US!”, clench into fists and shake at the blackened sky?

When foreheads and knees pressed hard into Calvary’s rough ground, did anyone know the end of Your pain was the beginning of their healing... of our healing?

Did they understand the darkness of that night would give way to light bursting from an empty tomb?

And when that third day finally dawned, did Your eyes laugh to see shock and joy on faces that despaired? Smiles on lips that cursed? Hope in eyes that wept?

Because that is me...that's us.

I wait on Calvary for an answer but my questions still hang under a silent heaven.

I press hard into the rough ground, on my face, on my knees and look up only to see the end of hope and dreams, and I reel.  

I walk back down that hill of hope, shoulders sagging under the weight of despair.

I kiss my babies goodnight, lips pressed to hold back the tears.

I clench fists and shake them at the darkened sky.

And I too don’t see it, don’t understand it... a third day is coming.

Darkness will give way to light, hope to despair...because of You, because You suffered and paid the price to set us free.  

My trial will give way to victory, a journey down a dark Calvary path will lead me to the empty tomb where You stand, waiting: Your eyes laughing when You see joy fill my eyes that had only days earlier over-flowed with tears.

Tonight the clock ticks, children sleep, and I am speechless.

How You love us all.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mothers & Daughters

The world is still and the only movement in our house lit by the glow of nightlights is the soft crunch of a fresh diaper shifting between chubby, bare legs.  I lift a sleepy eye then lift my sleepless daughter and carry her to the nursery where we collapse together into the overstuffed rocker.  She nuzzles her messy, cropped hair (self-cut) under my chin and we are pressed chest to tummy, all snuggles and sleepy sighs.

“Do you know,” I murmur into her hair, “My mommy used to rock me to sleep too?”

I can’t tell if she is still awake, but her silence prompts my speech, “And did you know my mommy is actually your Mimi?  I have a mommy too...a good mommy.  A really nice one.”

Her calm breathing steadies my own heart and I match the rhythm of her sleepy descent into slumber with my own journey into the past.

“Mimi was a good mommy to me, Sugar.  She was kind and good.  Oh, and patient.  Really fact, she's everything I hope to be.”  My eyes fill and the old, gnarled oak tree outside the nursery window crystallized with snow mellows into a white blur against the black sky.  Was that really so long ago that I snuggled into my own mother, listening to her lovely voice reading my favorite story for the fifth time in a row?  Has it really been years since I leaned against that scratched up counter top, watching her slice apples for my snack while we chatted?  My mom could have been anything.  She is beautiful and bright, sweet and strong.  But she chose to spend her days with us.  She choose Berenstain Bear books and ants-on-a-log snacks instead of something a little more...exciting.

I pull my girl close, holding her tight as I feel the minutes turn into years and fall from my grasp.  I step out of my journey into the past and attempt to peer into the future at my daughter.

She’s 2 and wearing diapers and chocolate milk-mustaches.
Then she’s 5 wearing a new backpack, smiling big and cheesy for a picture.
Then 8 wearing only one front tooth, waving the last piece of childhood in her hand.
Then 14 wearing a dress nearly as beautiful as her, looping her arm through her prom date’s for a picture.
Then 16 wearing total pride, holding up a driver’s license for her parents and the world to see.
Then 18 wearing school colors, giving me that mischievous grin under a swaying tassel.
Then 20 and wearing radiant white, gliding down an aisle.
Then 30 and wearing a comfy robe, rocking her own two-year-old to sleep.

And what then?

What will SHE say to her two-year-old as she rocks her under a starry window in a sleeping world?  Will she say I was patient and kind, sweet and strong?  Will she remember the favorites: the books, the snacks, the memories that filled her growing mind, little tummy and precious heart?

And I know as I remember my past; the good mom, the hard lessons and the God journey that led me to here; to this moment, this rocker...holding this baby close, I know nothing else is more important to me than to be the mom I was created to be. So maybe one day this child-turning-adult-in-a-blink-of-the-eye will remember that she mattered.  Maybe she'll remember that she was loved, held, read to, tickled, and rocked.

My wrinkled To Do List on the kitchen table that I had recently added #32 and #33 of “important things to get done today” suddenly seemed silly.  Tonight, after tucking this sleepy girl in bed, I am snuggling into my own bed to sleep (at last!) but tomorrow, my To Do list is getting edited.  Top of the list: reading all the favorites to little people and making memories that outlive the minutes slipping quickly away.  Something else is getting added to the List too.  Not at the bottom by #34 but closer to #1: Tell my mom she was a good mom.

Have I told her that lately?  Does she know that I think I’m very blessed that she helps with (our) laundry even though she long-since graduated from BIG Laundry Loads Days (with top honors!)?  Does she know I am blown away she still changes (the kids’) blow-outs even though her she long ago retired from Diaper Duty?  And does she know I have fond memories of books, snacks, chatting and laughing from years ago...because of her?  If you’re reading this, Mom, do you know that?  I hope you do now.  And I hope my own children will one day say I’m half the mom you were to us (heck, I’ll even take HALF the amount of patience you had!).

I move from our rocker and follow a silent path lit only by the amber glow of nightlights holding a tiny treasure.  As I tuck this little gift into her bed, I know I only can carry her in my arms for a few more years.  I can only hold her full attention until phones and friends interrupt our talks.  And I can only share the same last name until the right man gives her a brand new one.  But I will always be her mom and I can try be a good one.  I can choose to spend time with her even as time quickly falls through my grasp.

Because nothing else is more important to me than to be the mom I was created to be so one day this child-turning-adult-in-a-blink-of-the-eye will hopefully remember that she mattered.  She’ll remember she was loved, held, read to, tickled, and, of course...rocked.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Tearing

Tonight, it happened again, The Tearing.  It happened again but it was nothing like the first time.  Both were bittersweet.  Both were unexpected.  But in all other ways, they were nothing alike.

The first happened on a hot July night while wearing a one-size-fits-all hospital robe that still managed to barely cover my dairy-aire.  I was breathing like a drowning man coming up to gasp air and seek a rescue.  I was ready, but not thrilled, and frightened beyond my wildest imaginations.

The clock struck 7:35 and the cry of the nurse and the cry of her new patient filled the room, “He’s coming!”  There was absolutely no need to tell me that, I was just about to inform her of the same thing!!  I felt the tearing pain as I alternated between crushing the mattress with my bare hands and crushing my husband’s bare hands.  Sweat poured and muscles strained as I felt life leave my body and suddenly burst into our world.  Life!  A boy! 

What had once swollen my body was now pressed up against it and swelling my heart more than I thought possible.  The tiny feet and hands that could scarcely be felt through the barrier of my belly were now unfurling, grasping, and breaking through the only barrier left: our vision.  His daddy and I could finally see!  We saw my nose, his daddy’s eyes, his Mimi’s fingers; our purpose, our legacy.  We laid eyes on our first-born son and became blind to anything that would keep us from raising this boy into the man he was destined to become, our son.

The body heals and even forgets the first pain of The Tearing.  And really, looking back, it has only been seven years.  Yet, it’s been seven years.  He’s learned to walk and lead, laugh and tell jokes, eat and cook, hold and give, love...and love.  In many ways the student has become the teacher.  I see it when he opens the door for a lady, helps his sister into a shoe, explains a word to his brother or swallows the sadness when life disappoints.

And tonight, I am the one swallowing the sadness while at the same time, smiling in quiet awe.  Tonight, the clock reads 7:35 and The Tearing is happening again.  My body is whole but my heart is softly ripping as I feel him tearing away from me again.  He’s leaning up against the wall next to me yet not really there.  Tonight, I’m his mother and that’s not what he needs.  And I feel it: I’m ready, but not thrilled, and frightened beyond my wildest imaginations.

He doesn’t move but as his dark eyes stare past his younger siblings at play, he takes a step.  He steps away from me, away from childhood and steps towards manhood.  He needs a man to take him there.  Tonight, he needs his dad.  

This is different from when he was weaned from my chest, the bottle, the crib.  This isn’t the same as him outgrowing toy trains, board books, the highchair.  This is it: tonight the journey has begun.  I see him struggling into a backpack too large and looking over a map too confusing even though he stands there unmoving; leaning, staring.  Looking too little in sweatpants and a t-shirt too big.  I see him working through something in his mind too “man” for a mom and too “man” for a child.  I know he feels it too: The Tearing.

I lay siege to the part of me that wants to grab him right then and there, wants to pull him into my lap and make him stay young forever.  The part of me that wants him to play toy-trains and read silly books.  I know that would only stunt his growth, it would force him to wear shoes too small and shelve dreams too big.  It would bubble-wrap his heart when it was made to be broken then heal even stronger.

I swallow the sadness and embrace the happiness.  It’s happening: The journey.  The letting go!  The Tearing.  The time has come and just like that hot July night, no one can stop it.  No one should.  Not even his momma who savors and adores her little boy.  The tide of happiness ebbs into my heart and with a breath... I know it’s going to be okay.  He’s got a man to model after.  A man to dream big with.  A man to help him pack away the toys and know what to pick up instead.  He’s got a dad, and tonight, The Tearing is alright because I know who he’ll be on that journey with.  Not a perfect man, but a good man.  Not a man who never needs a map but a man who knows when and how to follow The Map.

Tonight, I pull that boy into my arms.  Sweat pours and muscles strain as I feel life leave my heart and suddenly burst anew into our world.  Life!  A young man.