Thursday, September 03, 2015

Grace For My Boy

Today is a significant day for my boy and me. A day that he is altogether unaware of, but one that I pray will stay with us for the rest of this school year, and the rest of our life together.

This morning as I started the day with my vital two cups of coffee, I stumbled across these words:

"Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health
to the body."

My first thought? "Ah, yes, this is a gem to pass on to the kids!" After all, they have been at each other all week, cranky, rude, ungracious, mean, ugly, etc., etc. So I passed it on to them, I'm sure in one ear and out the other, and we moved on with the day, hopeful that any of the richness of that Proverb stuck even a little.

Fast forward to yet another aggravated exchange between my 11 year old boy and myself this afternoon. We went to a bookstore to find him a grammar/spelling book for school because in the chaos of packing and moving, his books are stashed away somewhere in a box, in storage. I'm simply trying to find a few things to get by over the next month or so that we are in home transition.

I found a book I really liked. I was thinking about how great it looked, how much I thought it would work well for Elijah's level, learning style, etc. I made the mistake of actually speaking out loud in front of him, sharing my opinion. I simply stated that I thought it looked like a great book. What did I get in return? He's 11 and is pretty sure he knows everything, so of course what I received out of his brain, heart and mouth was an overwhelming mix of defiance, sarcasm, and disgust. With a sneer that I didn't even have to see to know it was there, my sweet boy uttered the words, "Geez, if it's so great, why don't you get one for yourself?" I realize the words themselves are not that bad. It's not like he cursed at me or called me a name, but can you just hear the attitude? The lack of kindness? It broke my heart and made me mad as hell at the same time.

So how did I respond? With the same kindness and grace I was expecting from him? Of course not. I immediately fired back at him (because that's how our personalities seem to work with each other) and I'm ashamed to admit it, but I actually threatened to take him out of my house and put him in school, so that some teacher could deal with him. Deal with him?? I truly hate that I said that. And what words came stumbling over my hot head and hard heart in that same moment?

"Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health
to the body."

That Proverb was for me. Go figure. And in that same moment I realized I cannot and will not give up on my sweet child. I will not send him off to let someone else "deal" with him. He is mine, warts and all. And a lot of those warts he inherited from me. How can I possibly threaten to reject him? God, forgive me. Sweet boy, forgive me.

The fact is, if I am really honest, this life with all grade school age children and no more babies is hard for me. I miss the babies. My best gifting is teaching and loving babies and young kids, and now my son is an adolescent, and it is HARD. He challenges me every day. Every morning, when he walks in to the kitchen and greets me with, "Hey, Mom", the day begins and we are on our way. On our way to a day either seasoned with arguments, eye rolls, resentment, and frustration; or a day full of kindness, patience, soft hearts and gracious words.

Gracious words. They are hard to come by in some moments and in some entire days. It takes work. It takes a constant awareness and openness to our own weaknesses. Being able to admit when we are weak. Being able to admit when we are wrong - even to the smirking face of the know-it-all adolescent standing in front of you, who is also still learning how to show humility. And there's the key: Humility.

I need Humility to teach my children. I need Humility to know that I don't know everything. I don't have all of the answers, I don't know what it takes to turn out successful young adults, I don't know the secret of how to just be nice to these little people each day. I'm tired, I'm stressed, I'm overwhelmed, and I don't have a clue. In the moment that I can admit those things, that's when I am able to accept help from others, advice from others, and the all-knowing Grace from God in order to fill all of my gaping holes. God fills in those holes and wide expanses of a lack of knowledge with community, friendship, love, and a whole lot of grace, and then some.

In humility is where we find our gracious words, and it's in humility that I won't give up on my adolescent, challenging, sarcastic, sweet, funny, loving, caring, creative, boy.

Today is a significant day for my boy and me.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

To See Your Face

It seems like the only thing I ever write about on here anymore is Eveyn. I would like to write about my other children more often. I do love them dearly and want to be better at chronicling their lives and the things they teach me every day. But unfortunately, today is not that day. Today I am writing about Eveyn again. I think it's just those really tough things about life that are easier for me to write about, rather than the every day things. I may regret that someday. But I also feel drawn to write about her and say her name often because infant death and miscarriages still seem to be a taboo subject to talk about in every day life. But this is the every day life of so, so many families so there is no reason it should be shied away from or kept private. So, here I write. About Eveyn, about grief, about life...

I have prayed and prayed for the last (almost) nine years to have a dream with Eveyn. I have always figured that this is my best possible place to be close to her on this side of eternity. This dream of dreams has never come. God has never given this to me. I did not realize how bad I wanted it until several months ago when Gavin woke up and told me he had just awoken from vivid dream of Eveyn. I immediately started to cry and felt jealous, indignant, and angry. I should be happy for him. After all, Eveyn is his daughter as well. He still grieves for her. He still loves her just as much as I do. I was glad for him, but I wasn't. I wanted that dream, that time with her. And I still do.

But I have found through these last nine years that God acts in his own time. He allows things to take place along this journey in the time that he knows is best for me. I may want things to happen yesterday, but he knows I can't handle it until a lot longer timeframe than I think is normal, appropriate, helpful, kind, or sane. But, he proves his wisdom, kindness and grace to me over and over, and over again.

At times, when I think about Eveyn, I do get a particular "vision" of her. Whether it's from God, my own head, pieces of things I've seen before, I don't know and I don't really care. It is a symbol of her spirit and soul and the fully healed body that I will one day see. She is not a baby anymore. She is lovely, tall, full of light, life and love. Walking in the most perfect of perfect days, with the greenest of grasses, the brightest of bright colors and light around her. I can hear her laugh. It is a vision. But I only see her from behind, barely catch glimpses of the side of her face before the wind moves her long hair to cover her. I can never see her face.

I may never have this dream of my girl that I so long for, and that's ok. Whether it's in a dream, or in the reality of eternity, I know my day will come.

Oh to see your face
To catch just a glimpse
To see your eyes, their color and sparkle
To know every spot and freckle like they are my own

Your hair is long and brown
Your laughter is warm and light
Your movements are joyful and pure
But oh to see your face

To press my forehead against yours
To smell your breath as we laugh face to face
To see the shape of your teeth and the form of your smile
Oh to see your face

Your legs float with ease and strength
Your arms full of freedom and grace
You bounce and twirl on the tips of your toes
Your feet carry you joyfully on your way again...

Some day I will see your face
And I will kiss your nose
And touch your cheeks
And feel your forehead against mine.

But until then, I will wait and I will dream
But oh to see your face

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Beauty of Pain

Recently, Elijah asked me if there was one thing that has ever happened to anyone in our family that I could take back or change. And if so, what would it be? It struck me that this is actually a difficult question to answer. The obvious answer for me would be the fact that Eveyn did not survive her birth. If all it took was a gentle calling of her name, I would have her back here with us faster than my lips could finish forming the sounds. Or would I? As utterly horrible as this may sound, Eveyn missing from our home has given me more life and grace than would have ever been possible otherwise. I still cry for her and grieve her absence, and I still have a longing for her that reaches depths I didn't even know were possible. But the fact is, I can't change it. So what do you do with pain that you can't change? You look deeper. You look even deeper than the depths of despair. Because from under those depths, love springs. Joy grows. Hope rises.

We all have a myriad of things in our lives that we regret, in the sense that we don't want to repeat those things. Whether it is something that has happened to us, or something we have caused, we have a lot of regret. (Regret is defined as feeling sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity). There were many choices made leading up to Eveyn's birth and death, and there are an abundance of choices made every day that lead us to where we are when we lay our head on our pillow each night. Every stupid or mean word that has ever stumbled out of my mouth in the direction of my children or husband is most certainly followed by regret. Every bad financial decision that has caused disruption to my family. Every job lost, every friend ignored, every stranger judged. Regret. But I don't believe we should live in a way that says, "I wish that never happened." We can and should have a desire to change unwanted behavior and circumstances that don't work well, but if we wish for those things to have never been a part of our life, we will never grow and we will never really appreciate all that life has to offer. We will remain stunted, immature, ungrateful and bitter about life.

Even in the most difficult, painful of circumstances, can't we see more? If we take a step back, and maybe it takes months, if not years to see anything more than the sheer pain, but when we are able to take a step back, can't we see the depth? Can we see beyond and under the surface layer of ugliness and pain to see something else? Can we actually come to a place where we can see beauty, love and even goodness? It doesn't mean the pain goes away, or the regret ceases to be a part of our thought process, but when we allow ourselves to see the beauty and love around us, and then allow them to work alongside the pain and regret, then we will be able to come to a place of thankfulness and peace.

So, where's the goodness in an untimely death? Where is the beauty in a violent act? I don't believe there is goodness and beauty in those things. However, can there be goodness and beauty around those things? In the events before, after and about them? In the friendships deepened, lessons learned, character grown, grace discovered, and strength owned? These things are beautiful, life-giving breaths given us by God to allow us a way to navigate the pain.

You see, life is painful. But you already know that. You know all too well the pain of loss, disappointment, exhaustion, hopelessness and fear. Is there anyone on this spinning globe of ours who does not know pain? Some may know more than others, but for each of us, regardless of what anyone else thinks, our pain is real, valid and consuming. It consumes our hearts, our minds, our bodies, our very souls. But will we allow ourselves the life of more? Will we let our hearts open to more, or will we refuse the beauty?

Sometimes the idea of living in pain and bitterness is actually a more welcome thought to us because it is comfortable, and we know what to expect from it. It feels like the right place to stay. Forever. We convince ourselves that being joyful in the midst of our pain is an inauthentic way to live. It seems fake, because this pain is so very real and raw. But I would argue the opposite. I would argue that when we acknowledge the pain, but also leave room for joy, for the two to live simultaneously in our hearts, commingling, intertwining, weaving in and out of each other as we go through life, then we are living authentically. Only then will our souls feel peace. It is a thing of eternal beauty.

Words from one of my favorite artists:

If I could I’d frame your stretch marks...
You only get them two ways
Giving birth or dropping weight
Either way, serious pain...

The picture of endurance, gave birth to a miracle
Them lines are memorials, freedom from the torture
And pounds you put on were the defense mechanism
Like "Maybe if I was ugly, then he would stop touching me"
And you endured the teasing of a fat girl on a track team and kept running

You tuned out the ridicule and every calorie burned
A cause for celebration
Them lines are victory laps, eternal gold medals
When I see ‘em, I’m reminded of the freedom...

Your struggles inspire, it’s physical literature...

It isn’t love if it doesn’t hurt
If you don’t feel it, then it doesn’t work
The pain removes the scales, pulls back the veil
The bruises in the blood will always tell the tale
Of the grace of grief, the beauty of brokenness
The peace of pain, the hope of hopelessness
The ease of emotion, the frame for the feelings
The scars and stretch marks, the proof of God’s healing