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On Control

We fought so hard – so desperately 

To gain the reins of the waves.

Grasping at every crest,

Our anxieties to stave.

Yet for all our fevered exertion

Our energies were wasted.

The waves cared not. Control…

Was never to be tasted.

It was painful to acknowledge

The scope of our miscalculation,

But then – surrender. Rest.

And with them, jubilation.

For the waves we feared

Would pull us under

Buoyed us up

And filled us with wonder.

All that we poured

Into inward concerns

Turned outward now,

Our selfishness spurned.

Still we sorrow, and still we grieve;

But no more for imagined power.

Unfettered now and free to claim

That which, by grace, is ours.

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Rotten Excuse for a Christmas Card…

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I’m always a little bit torn about whether to send Christmas letters, or even cards. On one hand, I love to send and receive personal notes, even if I don’t manage it very often. On the other hand, my little family usually doesn’t have a lot to report. Also, while I love getting them (friends and loved ones, please don’t be offended), I’m not very sentimental about keeping cards. My best friend is a card-keeping ninja. She puts me to shame, but apparently not enough to change my ways. I hope you’ll accept our cheap, online approximation of a personal card.

This year, we shook things up a bit. We moved back home last spring, after nearly 13 years in Iowa. Shortly after we sold our home, my husband injured his shoulder, which complicated his job search. Lovely, lovely friends helped us load the moving truck and we said our goodbyes. Less than a month after our move, the husband underwent (expensive) surgery and quite a lot of physical therapy before starting at a new job in a different field. Our eight year old left good friends and started at a new school. One of our beloved dogs died, and we brought home a rambunctious, athletic, seven-month-old puppy shortly thereafter. I recently started working part-time and our three-year-old started preschool. To sum up, we made all the life changes this year.

Moving is always difficult, even if the move is a good one, and ours was no exception. That said, our families have supported us in every possible way. They graciously shouldered so much of our stress and continue to offer their help and company. Having them close is a huge source of joy for us and we hope that we can return their kindness.

Our fantastic girls are full of irritat– vibrant energy. It is never not noisy at our house. Our oldest is trying ballet, loves to read and play outside and lives in her imagination. She talks non-stop. She surprises, amuses, and terrifies us with her quick mind and tongue. It is beautiful to see her growing thoughtfulness. Her little sister is a sweet, cranky, articulate, mischievous little thing. She is methodical where her sister is creative. She also screams a lot.

Honestly, the last eight or so months have left me too tired to reflect on any insights or draw any pretty conclusions about our experiences. We’re just looking forward to continued settling. Being nearer family has triggered some nostalgia and greater desire to honor/create traditions for my own kids. We’re looking forward to a 2019 full of opportunites to do just that.

Cheers, 2019! Have a peaceful year, all!

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Sally

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When I brought Sally home she was four months old. I had just turned 22. Today, twelve and a half years later, we lost her. The tears just won’t stop coming.

I married very young, and in many ways, my husband and I were still learning to navigate married life. We had moved from our home-state four months earlier. My husband had made his position on a dog clear (NO!), but I ignored his wishes and went with a friend to see Sally – a terrier mix with big, searching eyes and a quiet demeanor. Even now, I feel deeply sorry that I made such a decision without my partner on-board, but she won him over in a heartbeat, and I am so glad that she did.

Sally’s arrival really marked the beginning of my adult journey. She taught me that I could bear the weight of another creature’s physical and emotional needs – that I could be depended upon. We had tried raising a puppy once before, and it pains me to confess that I didn’t have the maturity or forethought for a puppy. But when Sally came, I was ready. I poured into her the time, attention and unconditional devotion that she needed. Not that I was a great (or even good) trainer or super intuitive, but I loved her so much. Maybe it seems like a lot to put on a dog, but she paved the way for my children. My firstborn came nearly five years after Sally, and my second baby another nearly five years after that. Four months ago, we moved back to our hometown, and I can’t help but feel that Sally’s death just closed the door on a significant part of my life.

Sally was an intelligent dog; she would watch me from across the room and seemed to understand the conversations going on around her. I will miss her quiet presence at my feet and beside me on the couch or bed. She had a bit of an independent streak. She was a stubborn thing, but I never could fault her for that. Nothing got her more excited than a rabbit, and nothing more focused than a mouse. I really thought she would chase them here a while longer.

Rest well, Sally. I miss you.

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Celebrating My Little Women

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My beloved copy of Rose in Bloom

I know – this post title is unforgivably sappy, but it’s my nod to Louisa May Alcott, whose books I devoured as a young girl. Disappearing into her simple, sweet, almost agonizingly wholesome worlds was like eating roast and potatoes on Sunday. Considering her own less-than-traditional bent and the challenges she faced as a woman advocating for greater equality, maybe Louisa May’s writing offered her a similar escape. Today seemed appropriate to recognize her since it is, apparently, National Women’s Day. I was only recently (an hour ago) made aware of this holiday; thank heaven I have Facebook to educate me about such things.

Never in one of Ms. Alcott’s books did surly, half -asleep parents try to get a surly, fully-awake, kicking-and-screaming kid to the bus stop in time. Jo’s strong will was romantic, and her mistakes were always rewarded with valuable life lessons that she took straight to heart. Her mother seemed ever peaceful and confident that her girls were not, in fact, little miscreants destined to drive her mad. On this particular, rocky morning, I look to Louisa May Alcott to remind me of the beauty of a strong will. I am blessed to have one daughter who knows what she wants, who feels that her opinions are valuable. The other, just two, is clearly following in her sister’s footsteps as she screams “Mine!!” and chases Olive to her room, arms flailing.

There are plenty of challenges ahead, but both of my girls show kindness and vulnerability, too. Today, then, I take a page from Mrs. March’s book, and celebrate the depth, strength, sweetness, and beauty in my girls while I pretend to be sure that we can successfully bring them up. Thank God for my rosebuds, not yet in bloom.

 

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How Do I Process this Evil?

Yesterday’s school shooting left me feeling like a stuck record – my mind unable to move forward or comprehend the screeching static. I process better when I write. I don’t know where this post will go, exactly. I do know that I’ll ramble, but I need to define this pain and evil somehow; to see its shape. You can’t throw a rock at a giant if you don’t know where he’s standing.

I believe in a good God. Despite the crushing weight of pain and injustice under which we all live, many people choose to do good. Mostly, these small acts seem futile, inconsequential – and yet, we do them. That we have the energy and hope to forge ahead at all is incredible, frankly. Our resilience is awesome. And also not enough. We are called to do more and be greater not through the strength of our own wills, but through that divine strength and power that breathed life into being. Some of us are better than others at letting go the steering wheel and inviting God’s direction. I often fall into the “others” category.

I cannot and would never presume to speak to the feelings of those who have been more directly affected by an act of violence than I have but while I feel lost and sad after this shooting, I don’t feel anger. Anger might be an appropriate response, but personally I am just… terribly confused. We seem to have flipped a frightening switch in the last 20 years. What happened? It feels very specific and yet, for all the finger pointing at different causes, I can’t help but think we’re missing something fundamental.

My mind inevitably turns toward the perpetrators of these acts. I believe deeply in personal responsibility, but I find it difficult to blame an individual whose mind or spirit is broken. I simply can’t know their level of capacity. It’s a problem. If they can’t, in fact, be held responsible, then who can? How do you fight something so abstract, so elusive and yet so pervasive?

We yearn for certainty, resolution, answers. They don’t seem forthcoming. And as unsatisfactory as it may seem, perhaps we are simply called to hold ourselves to higher standards of love in all areas of our lives. Maybe that giant is invisible, but every time we respond to evil with love, we deal him a blow. Wherever the world is headed, I pray that we might have the strength to be vulnerable and the courage to love fiercely.

2 Timothy 1:7

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Luke 12:48

“But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Spirituality · Uncategorized

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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The other night, we were driving and my seven-year-old was in the backseat, lost in her imagination. She was staring into her luminous window-reflection and my own childhood memories told me that she was delighted with the way her eyes shone and that she felt beautiful. I wondered when I last felt beautiful that way.

I watched her eyes gleam again and her chest puff on her birthday when she announced that she was seven and I remembered the delicious taste of a new age on my own tongue when I was a kid. But on my birthday this past week I hardly stopped to consider how old I was and felt instead a vague sense of melancholy at thoughts of things I haven’t yet accomplished.

The psalmist knew that he was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and he praised God for it. He acknowledged the miracle that is the human body and mind, despite our many shortcomings. I don’t find that miracle often enough – in the mirror or in the faces of those around me. When I do stop to appreciate it, the limitations I place on myself seem trivial. So here’s to a year filled with the kind of awe and wonder that break down cynicism and invite God to work through me.

Happy 2018!