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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!

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A Letter to My Almost Seven Year Old

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You, my first baby, will be seven years old this week and I feel like I should document who you are at this moment, at least a little. My pregnancy with you and your babyhood were among the most joyful times in my already blessed life; marked by a contentment that is rare for me. I love you more than I can say.

I will always remember the year you were six as groundbreaking. You have become so much like me (stubborn and headstrong and proud), and sometimes that makes it really tough for me to parent you. You talk and sing endlessly. You are smart and observant. This year you learned to swim and ride a bike. You sang in front of people at a talent show and blew us away with your confidence. You had your first “crush” and made your first best friend. You’ve learned to read well and are starting to experience the magic of disappearing into a book. You do like to be the center of attention, sometimes work too hard to impress others and get over-stimulated pretty easily; but your empathy, compassion and endurance are growing, too. You insist on learning everything the hard way and your anger is intense at times. You ask startlingly existential questions. I think your imagination rules at least eight hours out of every day.

As a mother, I am irritable and sharp too often, but I hope that figures less prominently in your daily life and memory than our awesome conversations, hugs and goodnight songs. And though I know that discipline is necessary and good, I also hope that you know deep down that those things that make you so angry right now – like having to do chores and eat food you dislike, or not having the freedom to do whatever you want whenever you want – are a major part of the way we show our love for you.

I thank God for you. I pray that we can lead you in the way you should go subtly and gently, that we can help you channel your stubbornness in a way I haven’t yet mastered myself and that you would always know that we love and support you.

Happy birthday, baby.

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God Bless America (where we can stand -or kneel – for what we believe in)

Last week during a high school football game in our school district, a student knelt during the national anthem. As a result, someone made incredibly hateful, bigoted comments about him on social media. This has been on my mind and heart since I heard about it and while I know there are plenty of voices already vying for air time on this topic, I feel compelled to show my support. It is terrifying to put yourself out there in a public way when your opinion is controversial. To the boy who knelt: I applaud your courage and am going to make myself uncomfortable in an effort to follow your example.

To the person who made the comments: Congratulations. You successfully validated this boy’s actions and drew attention to the very problem he tried to highlight.

I am in awe of the guts and sacrifice it must take to serve in the military. I respect and deeply appreciate the sacrifices military members and their families make. That said, the national anthem isn’t all about service members; it’s about showing our love for our country. I am desperately grateful to call the United States of America my home, but I don’t think all is right with this country.

Kneeling is hardly the equivalent of flipping the bird. In fact, I consider it a gesture similar to removing one’s hat and saying, “with all due respect.” And folks have every right to do that. The fact is that this country is not a hospitable place for many people. THOUSANDS of hate crimes are committed every year, and that’s just what is reported (https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2015-hate-crime-statistics-released).  People are verbally assaulted every day, too, perpetuating fear and anger and more crime. In a country where we recall items that cause injury to a handful of people and hear about them on the news for days, how can we continue to ignore something that hurts so many? There is absolutely a problem. And we can’t begin to address it until it is acknowledged. Kneeling is a way for people to acknowledge that they have had a different experience here. It’s not all victory and opportunity. We can debate all we want about whether they chose a proper way to bring attention to this problem, but what WOULD be the proper way? It is peaceful, visible and legal.

Those of us who feel strongly need to show our love and support. And if you feel that kneeling is unacceptably disrespectful – have a real conversation with someone who feels differently. You might not change each others minds, but respectful discussion on both sides of an issue is just one of the valuable perks of being an American. We should celebrate that freedom.

Again, to the boy I mentioned, I am so sorry you were on the receiving end of that nastiness. Please know that many people support you.

God bless.