waiting

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It’s that time where I start to get texts and inquiries from people, where neighbors walk by and holler, “you still here?” and all those last minute projects feel so terribly crucial.  Every day it seems I make a little bit of progress mentally in checking things off my list to be ready for baby.  I’m just a few days away from my due date, but I’m feeling more peaceful about it all than I have with any of my other pregnancies.  Thats a gift from the Lord!  I had a ton of anxiety going into my birth with Philippa after such a traumatic delivery and recovery with Noah.  Because her birth went so much better, I’m feeling more at peace with how this one will go.  Of course, I say that and that could change as soon as labor actually begins!  Pray for me and with me that I would remain at peace, fixed and focused, and full of joy.  I’ve just been feeling more joy and excitement to meet this little one than anything else.  I’m treasuring these last days with her moving around quietly inside, knowing I may never experience this again.  And I’m enjoying good nights of solid rest, knowing those will evade me soon for some weeks.

I appreciate the little bursts of energy and motivation I have some days to get things accomplished that have been waiting for attention for months.  Reorganizing the open shelving in our kitchen.  Hanging new light fixtures as well as treasured photos that have been sitting in boxes since we moved in.  Giving all the kids hair cuts on the porch, and wishing I could squeeze in one for myself.  (I’m desperate enough to be tempted to cut my own.)  I love seeing the little basinet in our bedroom when I glance down the hall, knowing it will have new life in it again soon.  This new little person we don’t know yet, but soon won’t be able to imagine our lives without.  The bursts of energy do help to get projects done, but usually they are followed by days of increased tiredness.  It’s just the rhythm for now, and I’m being gentle with myself in it, for the most part.

Phoebe and I are still working diligently on school, but I can feel myself losing steam and motivation there.  Brandon is starting to take her to her weekly co-op so I can stay home with the littles and the change of schedule is a little weird for us, but also really neat to have him more involved in her schooling.  It’ll only be short-term as I recover from birth and keep the baby home for the first number of weeks.  My parents treated us to a really fancy date the other night, maybe the nicest restaurant we’ve ever eaten at, and we talked so much about our kids and schooling.  His thoughts and observations were really fun to hear and helpful to me, and made me feel like he’s getting a peek into my “work” that helps him understand a bit more of my world.  I love that he’s interested and truly enjoys doing schooling with Phoebe when he gets the chance, and that he has ideas and excitement for our future in it with all the kids.

My parents also gifted us a new BOB stroller which is so generous and helpful, and when they were watching the kids during our date the other night, they all brainstormed name ideas and wrote them all over the box.  Super cute, and I wanted to snap a picture of it so we don’t forget.  We still haven’t 100% decided on a name, I have literally so many I love (few that Brandon approves of, though), and I think as usual we’ll just need to meet her and see what fits.  But don’t give me suggestions!!  We want to name this little one. 🙂

This week has been up in the mid-seventies and sunny here in NC, and it feels so odd to me to be ready to welcome a baby in such weather!  All my babies thus far have been born in the deep middle of winter.  It’s fun and different this time.  I have a feeling this little one wants a March birthday.  I’ll keep you posted, but know that it may be quieter around the blog for a little bit!

stay with the music–words will come in time

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I have been blogging less because I have been writing less.  My life has been busier, my time feels squeezed straight out, and so my heart and soul have been busier too.  I don’t do well with this.  It isn’t how I was made to operate.  I do well with a lot of silence, a lot of hearing the wind’s gentle whisper in the tops of the pines.  I do well with long stretches of study, reading, journaling.  I do well with sufficient sleep.  I do well when I have “filled the well,” so to speak, and the words tumble out of the overflow.

This season is gloriously full.  This season has days that begin at 6 am with one daughter’s voice in the baby monitor saying, “That’s mine, Bee-bee!”  It has days that begin with missed alarms, beds that have been wet again.  Bills that are past due.  Phone calls that must be made, laundry that piles, schooling that must be attended to.  This season is a string of flight from one activity to the next, keeping the plate in the air that is just about to crash.  Most days now I feel dizzy.

I wasn’t made to do this kind of thing well.  It is a stretch for me, a place of deep dependency on a good and all-knowing Father to give me the strength and energy to keep from drowning.  My soul gets buried in the heap and pile of duty and need and serving.  It’s both okay and not okay.  It’s life.  I wouldn’t trade away these kids for a well-watered soul any day, but I send longing eyes to the heavens sometimes, like a wife to her lover.

There are all these words.  

There is all this pain.  

There is so much fear.  

There is such deep joy.

How can it all coexist here, in this frail flesh and blood?  It’s as much a mystery to me as the commingling of Holy Spirit with my common man, bound up somehow in my person.  What a strong God to constrain Himself, to bend low like this to me.

But the words are buried and the emotions need time to sift and process and simmer.  They feel far away, on some distant shore while I’m carried away on the current.  And I mourn.  I fear that maybe this fruitlessness means that nothing is happening internally.  I wonder if I am valuable to God only when I am producing.  I fear that maybe my voice will just fall silent.

I don’t know how to find my way back to my own heart, to the shape of my own soul.  But I have learned: trace the old roads, the familiar paths.  Go back to the simplest of truths and the ways that have found me before.  Put aside needless distractions.  Remember the rock from which you are hewn.  Walk trails from a different season.  Return to books that knew me and opened me before.  Be content with the haunting quiet.  Be content with simply being held and loved.  Allow myself to accept the fact that He loves me simply because I am His, not because of what I have to offer Him.  Settle deep into His words.  Experience Him here, in barren lands.  Remember: seeds germinate in darkness.

So I snap moments and I know they are important but I don’t know why.  I know there is an undercurrent below the surface.  I find things that remind me of who I am:  Walking the trail I used to walk in my college days, back when my soul was near full to bursting with words from God, words from theological books, words words words, filling up so much silence.  Climbing an old forgotten favorite trail with my two best girlfriends late at night in the gathering dark, sitting under stars cupping steaming mugs and sharing hearts in a small circle of light.  These scattered seeds, these heavy moments, weighty, full, quiet, their meaning and importance somehow deep, surely there, but out of my reach.

And this poem by Malcolm Guite, poet + priest, opened up something in my soul this weekend.  Something in me sings with it.  Tears brim.  Call nothing common.  Accept it all for good.  And so I am here, singing from this place, exactly where I am.

Singing Bowl
Begin the song exactly where you are
Remain within the world of which you’re made
Call nothing common in the earth or air
Accept it all and let it be for good
Start with the very breath you breathe in now
This moment’s past, this rhythm in your blood
And listen to it
Ringing
Soft and light
Stay with the music
Words will come in time
Slow down your breathing
Keep it deep and slow
Become an open singing bowl
Whose chime is richness rising out of emptiness
And timelessness resounding into time
And when the heart is full of quietness
Begin the song exactly where you are.

settling into winter

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We’ve been happily busy with lots of THIS lately.  My older brother + his sweet family have been in town, and we’re so enjoying having the opportunity to be with them.  I’m loving the chance to get to know my nephew a bit and it is precious to me to see all the cousins play together and build little bonds.  I know from my own childhood years how special cousin relationships can be!  It’s like having extra siblings.  And I’m thankful for more time getting to know my sister-in-law and reconnecting.  Our hearts are full!

The leaves are mostly off the trees, a cold front moved in with a wild gust last night, and we’re settling into winter slowly.  Things can begin to look dark + barren, like the black-eyed susan stalks, shooting their bald heads into iron sky.  All can seem lost, empty.  Yet hidden within that flower’s cone are all the seeds for next year’s flower, each cone containing dozens of potentially viable seeds.  All this glory and beauty and light bottled up in that dark little bumpy-looking ball, just waiting for the right conditions in which to burst forth.  The same stalks that wave cheery yellow wildflowers in the summer, we pass by, or even trample underfoot in these winter months, assuming it’s all dead anyway.  Winter is full of promise and waiting and hope in small, hidden places.  There is all manner of beauty in those barren places, if we’ll look.  There is all manner of potential.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

F O U N D

 “I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit”

{Psalm 40:1-2}

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Morning came so slow.  The dark lingered so long.  The silence of it all was deafening.  We cried out to God, reached for Him, we waited.  We didn’t hear Him speak.  We asked Him if this would be it, if this would be His time for us to come home.  He didn’t answer.  We clung to each other, kept each other awake, too afraid to fall asleep and wake to find the other one of us frozen to death.  We did math equations and quizzed each to check each other’s lucidity.  We both seemed to go in and out of being clear-headed.  The weakness we each felt was terrifying: we knew now that we would not be hiking out of this canyon.  We slowly acknowledged that we would have to wait for rescue.  We prayed and hoped others were already looking for us.  We talked about what everyone was probably doing at that very moment.  We talked about how hard it would be on mom and dad if we didn’t make it out alive.  We wondered if they’d ever find our bodies.

Sometime in the middle of the night, we both began to despair.  We were already feeling so labored in our breathing, in our shivering, so weary of the cold.  We began to feel like we didn’t have much more time.  It was at this point that we began to hear the faintest sound, no, actually we could feel it, too.  The faintest hum of a motor.  The slightest hint of vibration in the ground.  The sound grew louder and then would fade out again.  It was a shot of adrenaline!  We knew that sound: snowmobiles!  They were looking for us.  We yelled a few times from a small hole we made in the roof of our snowcave.  We yelled when we heard the motor stop.  Then we’d hear it again.  We clung to that sound.  It was the faintest whisper of hope, but it kept us going.  It literally sent a surge of warmth through us every time we heard it.  We’re going to be okay.  It’s only a matter of time now.

Just before dawn, the sound stopped.  The weariness set it again.  All I wanted was to get off the snow, to get off the constant life-sucking, warmth-sucking ice beneath me.  I could feel my skin prickling with freezer burn against the constant wet cold.

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The faintest hint of light seemed to filter through the snow above our heads.  It seemed to only get colder.  I began to fade a bit, whether from sleep-exhaustion, whether from cold, I don’t know.

Sometime around that point we began to hear the distant chop-chop-chop of a helicopter.  It was so faint and muffled, and I was in such a fog mentally I couldn’t identify it at all.  Jennie began to get excited again, sure that someone was looking for us, and telling me it was a helicopter, but I couldn’t grasp it.  I had no idea in that moment what a helicopter was, all I could think of was “cold…. cold… cold.”

We heard the helicopter here and there, sometimes louder, sometimes not at all, and I couldn’t even tell you for how long.  I didn’t care at that moment.  Then suddenly it was close.  Louder, louder, louder and Jennie began yelling, “Martha they’re going to find us!  They’re right above us!  They need to see us!”

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The sound was deafening, and she burst through the roof of the snowcave, waving wildly and screaming at the helicopter that was then circling just a few dozen feet above us, just above the trees, so close we could easily see the pilot + scout smiling down at us, grinning from ear to ear and making hand signals, telling us they’d be right back.  Then they flew off.

Within twenty minutes or so, we heard some whistling in the trees, and two men snowshoed into our clearing.  We couldn’t stop beaming and laughing.  “Do you believe in God?  Because He is definitely looking out for you,” one said as he came into the clearing.  “YES!”  We cried.  We talked with them about what happened, as they quickly checked our fingers and toes and looked us over, handing us each a snickers bar to eat.  The other rescuer looked down into our small burrow in the snow, our shabby snow cave, and paused.  “That’s what saved your lives right there,” he said, as he snapped a couple pictures of it.  We then hiked down with them to a bigger clearing that the helicopter could manage to land in, and we jumped in and were whisked away from the wilds and back to civilization.  Back to safety, to family, to warmth, to the unexpected surprise of several news agencies waiting to interview us as we stepped off the Flight for Life helicopter at Summit County Hospital.

It was all over.

We managed to come out of it with very mild hypothermia and minor frostbite on our fingers and toes.  Helicopter Pilot Pat Mahaney informed us that we were his first live extraction in 25 years of search + rescue.  We were shocked.  We began to hear the stories from the other side.  We told the rescuers how much it meant to us through the night to hear them sweeping the bowl on the snowmobiles, how it seemed to literally keep us alive.  They looked at us confused, and said, “No one was searching through the night.  We began searching in the afternoon after we received the call (from my brother Andrew), and had to call off the search through the night because of weather conditions.  We never used any snowmobiles.  In fact, the whole pass road was shut down to any traffic, so you wouldn’t have heard any motorized vehicles.”

We still have no explanation for what we heard.  But we both heard it, we felt it through the ground ever so faintly.  And it was a big part of what kept us alive and fighting.

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We later found out the temperatures dropped that night -21 degrees with windchill.  If we had chosen to keep hiking instead of hunkering down in the snow for the night, the story would have ended very differently.

There were many other details we learned from the rescue teams that were searching for us that night that cemented for us the certainty that God’s hand was all over this, that He was working in the smallest of details to ensure our survival.

In the immediate months that followed, life looked different through my eyes.  As a teenager, you truly do think you’re invincible, and our experience shattered that.  I knew with a certainty that I wasn’t just here by accident, but that God had given me the gift of life again.  That He wanted me to know He had a plan for me.  He wanted me to know that I was alive on purpose.  He wanted to save.  Reading back through my journals, I didn’t speak or write much to the whole experience.  Only one little blip about feeling it all bottled up inside and not knowing how to process it.

And then today, it’s hard to believe 14 precious, full, lovely years have passed.  I have been given all this time.  I’m more aware than ever what a gift it is.  And these three precious miracles:10384535_10153097716452605_7778622944599110811_n

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.”

{Psalm 34:4}

when the promise waits

I grew up in a home so full of love and sweet memories.  And yet, like so many others of you have experienced, the darkness was there.  Early on, darkness invaded our home and although one of my siblings was horribly victimized, all of us fell victim in our own ways to that darkness.  All of us were affected, broken.  When someone you love just as much as your own flesh is suffering in horrendous pain, you suffer too.  You can’t be okay in some ways until they are okay.  Your healing waits for theirs.

And so the question of “why pain, why suffering,” the question the world wields like a certain sword to the existence of a good God, often has haunted me.  Although it has never pushed me away from God, I have always felt His understanding in my need to ask those questions.  And so graciously, sometimes in the quiet and over the years, He has given glimpses.  There will never be a satisfactory answer to that question, as centuries of men far wiser than me have sought and found it unanswered.  Some things you have to choose to believe even in the face of difficulty.  Some things you just have to surrender.

Last night we all went out for ice cream, my husband and our two kids and I.  All week, in my study time with the kids, we’ve been learning about Abraham and Sarah and how they waited for the child God had promised them.  As part of teaching our daughter about waiting for a promise to be fulfilled, I promised her at the beginning of the week an ice cream treat, but she would have to wait until the end of the week for it.  Every day we talked about it, I reminded her of my promise, that I would fulfill it.  And she learned to wait and to anticipate.  And so, last night, she got her chocolate ice cream, and her excitement was unparalleled.

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And so my mind has been thinking over Abraham and Sarah and their story.  Maybe you’re familiar with it {Genesis 12-23}.  I imagine that early on in Abraham and Sarah’s marriage, they dreamed about children, as so many of us do.  Of course, the pressures of their society were entirely different than ours.  For them, children were essential.  A woman who was barren was worthless, and could easily be dismissed and divorced by her husband.  What’s worse, barrenness was seen as a sign of divine judgement.  It was essential for a family’s name to be passed down and for the family line to continue through sons.

For many years Abraham and Sarah would have longed for a child, tried for a child.  But one day, the window of opportunity would have begun to close on Sarah’s natural ability.  She would have known that, although she had hoped against hope, although she had told herself to stop hoping, now all hope surely was gone.  It was time to let this dream die, as her own womb grew silent and dormant forever.

And the years continued to pass.  Now the ache was still there, but the sting had lessened a bit.  She was an old woman now, and she had a husband who loved her enough to stay with her, even in this shame she had brought on him.  She had chosen to let this be enough.

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(photo credit here)

And then, the word of the Lord came to Abram.  That night came when the Lord told Abram to count the stars if he was able.  So would his descendants be: innumerable {Gen. 15:1-6}.  And the incredulous hope began to stir again.  Descendants?  This means children.  But how can this be?  And Sarah, maybe in impatience for this promise, maybe because she simply couldn’t fathom the miracle God had planned, figured it must not be through her own body that God would do this work, but through her handmaiden.  And so she suggests Abraham father a child through her maid, Hagar.  Ishmael is born, Abraham’s first son.

But this was not God’s plan for the family He was planning to generate through Abraham.  He was going to begin through Abraham and Sarah the line of Israel, a people He had chosen for Himself, to set apart for Himself as His own special portion.  A family which would be inordinately blessed, upon which His favor would forever rest.  And this family line would begin with an undeniable, miraculous work of God, not the scheming and devising of man.

Then when Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him.  God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, Sarai’s name to Sarah.  And He reveals that His plan was for the family line to come through Abraham and Sarah, and that Ishmael was not the chosen son. He tells Abraham that Sarah will have a son, and they will name him Isaac {Gen. 17}.  And yet still, the promise waited.  Still some years passed before this son Isaac was conceived in Sarah’s womb.

Why was this God’s way?  Why does the promise wait?

It isn’t what comes easily to us, what comes in abundance to us, that we treasure.  It’s what we have to fight for, what we have to long for, what we have to work for, what is rare, that we most treasure and appreciate.  Our dependency, our helplessness to secure it for ourselves — this makes us all the more aware of what a treasure it is when it comes.

It’s how we see.  When we see things as widely available, or easily attainable, we are often careless with it.  But when it’s hard to come by, we are careful with it.  We hold it close.  We enjoy it more.

When a snow storm is predicted in NC, where I live, the aisles at the grocery store are completely emptied of bread and milk.  Suddenly we perceive the value of having enough food when the threat comes that we may not easily be able to get to the store.

We see it with money.  When we have enough, we spend easily and carelessly.  When we know we don’t have enough, suddenly every expense is calculated and measured.  We are thankful for anything we can afford to feed our family, instead of worrying about whether it’s organic or locally sourced.  Suddenly the priorities change and the thanks increase for whatever we have.

We see it in a culture of abortion.  Children?  An inconvenience, easy to come by when I am ready.  Easy to dispose of when I’m not.

When my husband and I had our first daughter, the pregnancy came as as surprise and went along easily.  She was born in six hours and without any complications.  I cannot even begin to tell you the explosion of joy it was to have her and to hold her for the first time.  It’s unlike anything I had ever experienced before.  It’s indescribable.

But I think about Sarah.  What was her joy like?  I can’t measure it, but I imagine that it was infinitely greater than mine.

See, there’s an innocent joy that I experienced when my daughter was born, the joy unmixed with sorrow.  An innocent, untried joy.  A beautiful kind of joy.  But the joy that Sarah had?  The joy that comes after waiting and longing for probably 60-80 years to be a mother?  And then at nearly 100 years old, to hold her first child.  Her miracle child.  Her divine child.

And it makes me think.  God gave me the gift of a child when I had a firstborn, and of course, joy.  But for someone who has waited, for someone like Sarah, God gave the gift AND the fullest measure of joy possible along with the gift.  The greatest gift, with inestimable value in and of itself, along with the greatest possible ability to receive and enjoy the preciousness of the gift.

God stirred up their longing for a child, a longing they had surrendered, and then allowed more waiting and disappointment.  We see this and think God mean, manipulative.  A loving parent would give the desired gift immediately, we think.  But what if a parent who is perfect in love, who is full of light and in Him is no darkness whatsoever, no hint of malevolence–what if He deferred hope so that He could fulfill it with greater joy?

Abraham and Sarah grasped the weight of it.  The heaviness of glory in the miraculous holding of their very own child, their very own flesh and blood, in their wrinkled, aged hands.

Thus, Isaac.. “the son of laughter” or “he will laugh.”

The son of immeasurable joy.

And so maybe this is why sometimes, the promise waits.  Maybe this is why there are the years and years of praying for the lost family member, the prodigal child, the infertility, the healing of a disease.  Sometimes we know, in God’s higher ways that are beyond our conceiving, His most loving answer is “No.”  But sometimes, He waits so that when the “yes” comes, our joy is beyond the ordinary joy.  So that we treasure that “yes” to fullest measure.