Friday, November 13, 2015


I ran into a link for a blog post the other day entitled, "When you are not Excited about Having a Baby".  I ran right over there, not passing go or collecting $200!
The woman shared, graciously, about her ambiguity over her recent surprise pregnancy, how her current children are 6 and 4 years old and how far apart this next one will be.  After I stopped laughing about that, I read the comments that followed from other readers.

It seems she and I are not alone.
I never wrote about my own experiences here in that regard.  I think with Julia I could not admit to myself how conflicted I was.  By the time Ellie arrived, I was barely functioning, let alone processing why I was barely functioning.

It isn't that I did not want them!  We had wanted another child for some time.  We had just given up.  We were having the "I guess the Lord wants us to be content with what we have" conversations.  After all, we had tried!

But when Julia and Ellie came along, I was not as ready as I thought.
I did not expect the difficulties that a pregnancy  in your forties entails compared to one in your twenties...
I did not realize how attached I had become to my "when I am done homeschooling ...." muses and dreams. 
I did not realize there would be things to grieve.
I did not know how lonely I would feel when my friends were moving "forward" into their post-kids phase of life while I started over.
I did not expect the number of negative comments I received about my pregnancy from friends and acquaintances, or the embarrassment I felt when they did come.
I did not anticipate the number of strangers who would query as to whether the same father had sired this third one as the first two, and whether we were surprised, and "may I ask, how old ARE you anyway?"
I did not expect such a beautiful concept as adoption to be so hard.
I did not think I looked old enough to be any one's grandparent, but apparently I did, and I do.
I did not think these blessings could knock my marriage almost completely over.
I did not realize how isolated and incapacitated one could be when they are burdened with shame over such feelings.
This Fall I have been working on making baby books for the girls.
I decided that if we were to home school next year (and no, I don't know yet), I should work on things during preschool time that would be difficult or impossible to do if they were home.

Baby books definitely made the list.

It has been an emotional battle looking at all of these pictures.

I am reminded of some dear friends of ours.  They picked up their family and moved to India to work for International Justice Mission, an organization that aids in the freeing of slaves and of women sold into the sex trade business.  John left a six-figure, stable-future kind of job for this undeveloped country.  They were rock stars in my Christian world.   I remember a correspondence with them about a year into their stay, after the birth of their second child there and a near death experience for his wife, Linda, in which he wrote that he wished he had handled it better.  "What?!",  I remember thinking, "What more could you have asked of yourselves?"
In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus and the disciples are crossing the sea of Galilee when a storm comes upon them.  Jesus is asleep.  Being seasoned fishermen I am thinking that the storm must have been quite fierce to send them in to a panic.  They wake Jesus to ask him,  "Don't you care?" - that the boat is filling with water and we are about to drown.  Jesus gives them what I have always thought to be a pretty crummy answer, He chastises them for their fear and lack of faith.  I always pictured this scene like a small child waking in the middle of the night from a frightening dream and having their father tell them not to be an idiot and go back to sleep.
Let's just say, it was not my favorite Jesus story.

I understand why Jesus was frustrated.  He had told them they were going to the other side, that should have been enough.  He was there, and that should have been enough.  He was completely at peace, that should have told them something.
I have spent a large portion of these first years with Julia and Ellie asking God if he was asleep.  Not in so many words mind you, but it is where my heart has been.  (Actually maybe I did use those exact words...)
God gave us Julia, knitting her together perfectly from a very old egg in my little old womb.  That should have been enough.  And he gave us Ellie after years and years of being stagnant in the adoption queue.  That should have told me something.

Looking through these pictures, I think I understand more deeply now what my friend John meant. 

I wish I had handled it all better.
I wish my response had been one of faith and not fear.
I wish I had trusted the Lord to work all things together.

I can not change the pictures, or really the stories behind them is what I long to change, but I hope I will walk the next six years with greater faith, than I did the past six. 
I hope I can let Jesus sleep in my boat


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dear James

So I tried to figure out how much longer we have you here at home ("OK Google, how many more days do we have James?")  It looks like about 7 more months as I start this letter, depending on where you end up heading off too.
I have never wanted you to leave, I know some people are "ready" for their kids to leave when they go off to school, but I am not.  It isn't that I think you should stay. 
You shouldn't.  This is right and perfect. 
I am just saying I can not think of a time when I wanted this time to come.  I never said, "I can't wait until he leaves for college".  Truthfully I wouldn't mind freezing this time and savoring it a little longer. 

I keep thinking of things I want to make sure I tell you before you go, or tell you again more likely.
But the one of first most importance is this:

I love you no matter what.

I don't know if it is the way of all mothers' love, but it is the way of this mother's.
My love will follow you to JMU or Virginia Tech or wherever you decide to go (even if it is UVA).
It will hang on even if you commit a crime, get a tattoo, join a band, get addicted to drugs, vote democrat, decide you are gay, get a girl pregnant, drop out of short, if you blow it by anyone's standards.
I want you to know that there is no hole deep enough that I would not still do everything I could to pull you out.
I have heard of kids thinking that there is a place of no return.  Thinking, "I know I am drunk and I should call my parents but I don't want to tell them".  Thinking, "I have been arrested for something, maybe I can keep this from them". 
This is my loud protest to those kinds of thoughts. 

I can not promise you that I won't be sad.  I will be sad with you, when you make a stupid decision, or some great plan doesn't turn out the way you had hoped.  I will try, however, not to make it worse by making dumb mother comments.  I will try to love you without my agenda, because I want always to be a part of your life, a good part.  No matter where you go.
No matter what.

Oh, and if you are having any anxiety about leaving, can I just say, you are going to be fine!
I, on the other hand, am going to be a basket case.
But you should go anyway.

love, mom

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Sideline

I was on the phone with my mother the other day and shared a particular difficulty I was having with one of the girls. I told her some ideas of things that might help the situation (including one involving food, because after all I think most everything can be cured by some alteration in your diet..).  She listened and responded supportively,  "sounds interesting" in regards to the research and "couldn't hurt to try".
A little later she pointed out that, actually, we had had a similar situation with one of the older children when they were preschoolers.  She reminded me that that was cured by some discipline and not so much by food.
I received it.  She is probably right.  It might be a little of the other, but mostly ...

The reason for that story is this.  When she pointed that out to me, when she, in essence, made a child rearing suggestion to me, I didn't feel the least little sting. 
My feathers weren't ruffled, and it wasn't because I am particularly good at that sort of thing.

Why is that?
It is something I have thought about a fair amount because I have been repeatedly surprised by how few adult women seem to have a good relationship with their mom.  They feel criticized at every turn, unaccepted.  They hide things from her because they don't want her, presumably negative, opinion.
I don't have that with my mom. 

I am not sure of all of the reasons but I can speculate. 
She didn't fear man, or teacher or anyone else who was doing something not in the best interest of her children.   
She let me be a separate person with my own opinions.
We spent a lot of time together just the 2 of us in my middle school and high school years.  She was my "best friend" as I proclaimed one night, sitting in a canoe, in the dark, on the James river, me having had a beer or two and she a glass of wine.
Maybe the fact that I even have that story says a lot.

She took her family seriously.  She took her job seriously.  Herself?  Not so much.
And with that came a humility, an air, communicated to me at 8 and 18 and 48, that she didn't think she had all the answers. 
She had some. 
She actually had many, but she never made me feel that she had the corner market on them. 
I could have some answers too.
I could tell her which jumper looked good with what, what paint color was best for the kitchen, whether her idea for a project for her class was a flop or a fly.
She respected me.
Ultimately though, the thing with the largest impact, is that my mom has always been in my corner.

She supported me when I was going to be a school teacher, and when I was going to be a biologist, and when I was taking random classes with no apparent major in sight.
For more than four months after I went off to school she listened to me on the phone for hours at a time because I was so homesick.  And, it was over 25 years later when my own daughter moved out before she confessed that she would sometimes cry after she hung up the phone with me. 
She sent me care packages for every holiday listed on the Hallmark datebook, with treats for my roommate as well.
She shopped for cute work clothes with me when I wanted a career and then rallied for me when I quit that and wanted to go back to school 
She supported me with yet another round of phone calls when I decided to drop out of medical school and delighted in me staying home full time with my children. 
Despite 30 some years as a public school teacher, she managed to swallow most of her reservations when we decided to home school (she probably figured it wouldn't last any longer than the other things) and sent me curriculum ideas. 
She has done nothing but tell me how wonderful my children are on a regular basis.
I can receive her suggestions, because they are so rarely given.  The deafening noise on my sideline is her enthusiasm for me, not her criticism.

In short she has been my first, biggest, and best cheerleader all of my life.

So, since someone asked me recently, "do you have any advice for young mothers?"
It is this.
Cheer loudest.
Always cheer loudest.

That is what she did.  It is what she continues to do!  

"...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."
Philippians 4:8

Friday, January 24, 2014


"The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip."  Genesis 32:31

Confession time!
 I forgot Ellie's birthday.  No, not just the time the pediatrician's office asked so that they could look up her records, I do that with all of them, even myself on occasion.  I am talking about the preschool day closest to her birthday.  I show up with Ellie in tow and the teacher asks if I have brought any special treats to celebrate her birthday with her friends.
Long pause.
"Uh, no."  I had checked birthday off of my list on Saturday, when we celebrated with family and opened presents and had cake.  It never occurred to me that we needed an encore.  Now in my defense, my first two kids had summer birthdays so "party at preschool" had never been on my radar screen.
The teacher looked at me like I was pitiful.  And really, I guess it was pretty bad.
I ran to the CVS across the street and picked up some Mrs. Field's cookies (hey, those are  a treat at our house) and some Bounty napkins slightly decorated with butterflies because they did not have any actual party supplies at the drug store.  I got back over there well before snack time and I am sure that Ellie did not even notice.

No one wants to be the "limper".  The one who slows the party down because they can't keep up, or who just gets left behind altogether.  The thing is, this time around parenting in particular, I am that person. 
I am just not able to keep up with all of the ins and outs of every one's lives, even in just my own family.  I don't remember everything going on in the two different preschool classes, much less in the college ones. 
I am not going to be any body's homeroom mother anytime soon.
I rush to sign up to bring the paper products for the class parties because, hey, who knows what next week is going to look like and I don't want to be responsible for baking something and getting it there.  Plates and cups, however, can be brought in just as soon as you sign up and then you don't even have to try to remember what day the party is! 

No, I don't want to be the one holding up the crowd, or the one left behind while everyone else runs ahead. 
I don't like being the "not liked by the teacher" parent, and I am.
I would rather be pulled together and on top of things. 
I would rather be different.

But, when you hang back, when you are not keeping up, you find that actually, you aren't alone after all!  I am finding that there are others back here with me.  Other people whose lives are not going so smoothly, or who just do not have the energy to rally for another race to no where. 
Other people who were dealt a far more difficult hand than I . 
I don't think I would have met these people, I am not even sure I noticed them before. 

And this has put a lot more mercy in my little mind than use to be there. 
When your child is acting up in the grocery store my assumption is not that you just can't be consistent in your parenting.  When you are feeding them junk food through the entire trip to keep the peace, I am not thinking that you are contributing to their long-term demise.  When they are dressed in shorts and a t-shirt in January, I don't think of you as negligent. 
I am proud of you for remembering their shoes. 
I am bringing my two at lunch time so that we can eat through the entire trip, stopping at the deli first to get some turkey. 
I am trying to send you a look of sympathy, but understand completely why your eyes aren't meeting mine.  I just wish I could tell you, "hang in there, I am limping too and if I look pretty good today, it is a fluke, I assure you". 

Jacob finishes his life renamed by God, reunited with his brother, restored and redeemed with his father.  He is blessed with children and their wives and grandchildren that numbered 70 in total when they moved to Egypt.  God had his hand in his life, even during the limping years, maybe even especially during those years.
And that gives me great hope, for all of us who are falling off of the jungle gym on the playground of life.

"Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen, and they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.  And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years.  So the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years."  Genesis 47:27-28

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Finding the Real Fruit

We just returned from a visit to my parent's house.  It was the Apple Festival at their "next door neighbors", where you can buy some of the best apples grown by God.  If you ever have reason to be in North Garden, look up Vintage Virginia Apples.  It is worth the trip.  The weekend weather was perfect for lying in the middle of their acreage and playing with my girls.  We were able to meet and re-meet many of the friends who have loved on them so well through the ups and downs of life.
I felt terribly thankful.  Almost painfully so if that makes any sense.
For the most part, parents are an under appreciated lot.  I don't think you can fully "get it" until you are one anyway, and each year deepens my respect for my own. 

Tonight I was walking in our yard, strolling past the neglected vegetable garden so overgrown with weeds you would think it had been way more than one season that we completely didn't try. 
None of us are gardeners. 
James, had he been born into another family, could have been.  He is the only one of us so far with the patience said endeavor takes.
I looked at all of the things my dad did in that garden.  The raised beds that once held weed free soil.  The blackberry bushes harvested, planted, pruned (though you can't tell now).  The water barrels placed next to the garden so that James would not have to cart water all the way from the house one bucket at a time.  The garlic and onions gone "to seed", or gone to the rodents, or just plain gone.  Tomato cages rusted.
I wish we had kept it up.  I feel terribly guilty about that. 
It occurred to me however, my father has never once, not ever, expressed disappointment in us over it.  That is just amazing.  And profoundly grace filled.
I guess at 78 you know that it isn't about whether or not the pegboard in the garage actually helped better organize your son-in-law.  It doesn't matter that the 15 pages you printed off of the internet about local fox trappers and snare designs didn't actually net any victories over James's nemesis to the poultry business.  Building Maggie's room in the basement was a relative success, but seems short-lived as she is already gone for good. 
What I think he must know is that it is the being there.  It's the being all there. 
The tasks themselves don't actually have to be successful. 

The fruit isn't in the garden.

It is housed in a weekend where all four grandchildren were equally delighted to spend time enjoying and helping them.

Honor your father and your mother, as the lord your God has commanded you ....
Deuteronomy 5:16

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Vox Musicorum

There is something about the ocean that relaxes me in a way no other place does.  Even with people around, my mind feels free, like the world might not be my responsibility after all, which is my usual modus operandi.

I do not know why this is so. 
We did not spend "summers at the seashore" growing up.  I do not have any spectacular memories of significant events that happened there.  In fact, I was thirteen before I even saw the ocean
I think, for whatever reason, it is on the beach that I am able to hear the background music of my life - that carefully chosen tune that the Lord is directing and the Heavenly Host is playing. 

The music is large and bold, deep and broad, and good. 
The score. 
It is what my heart wants, needs, to hear.  The music that makes the body want to lift up arms and dance with reckless abandon.  When I hear it, life some how all makes sense and the hard parts feel worth it.
It is the way I think, albeit even more deeply, that we are supposed to live everyday.  The way we were created to live.

I have always been impressed with music written for movies.  That a composer is able to write from the story and make the viewer's emotion match the storyteller's desire, is pretty amazing.  The music in a movie tells us how to feel before the action even takes place.  I think when Jesus says "abide in me" (John 15:9) and that "his sheep hear his voice" (John 10:3), it is because He wrote a musical score that we are meant to be listening to as we walk out our days.  While our feet are on this earth, our ears are supposed to be listening to the Word.  He tells us how we are to feel while our story unfolds.

It is turning down the volume of the rest of our lives in order to hear that song that is so, so difficult.

Psalm 89:15-16
Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!  They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance.  In Your name they rejoice all day long...