Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Birthday Cakes and Life

We are in the midst of the crazy March/April birthday madness over here and, just when we finally finish the cake from one birthday, it's time to bake another. Having kids in school has only exacerbated the already crazy cake-problem as they seem to require me to bake cupcakes to take to school as well. I feel like powdered sugar has somehow become a grocery staple right up there with eggs and milk. And, more than anything, I'm feeling that spun out, breath knocked out feeling that all of this crept up on me. Again. Doesn't it do that every year?

The perk of having all of these birthdays in one insane burst is that there isn't much time for navel gazing. I spend a moment or two on the days of their birth remembering with wonder how they burst into my life and changed it - always for the better. Gifts unfathomable, these kids of mine. Still, the celebrations tick on by and, beyond that, it's business as usual around here. Just as well because it's not the birthdays that change them. It's the every day.

I notice it mostly with my Dinah. She's all lip smackers, overalls and peace sign selfies these days and I feel even more so now than when she was little that, if I blink, I'll miss it. This girl that she is. The woman she's becoming.  Maybe it's being a young-ish mom or maybe all moms feel this, but I well remember being twelve. How deeply I felt things. How strong my convictions of justice and how sure I was about my place on this earth. It's a precious and tender, strong and fragile time of life. I am more and more aware that the words I speak to her have lasting power. Meaning. That the life I live in front of her eyes is something that she won't ever forget.

That thought is sobering but, also? A grace, of sorts. When I look deep into my childhood at the woman I call Mom through the lens of a 30-something, I feel nothing but compassion. Love. Understanding for the struggles of daily life, the sacrifices she embraced with joy and the mistakes that she agonized over. Life is complicated and important and amazing and a one-shot deal. But life is also just life.

It's a reminder I turn over and over in my head through all the decisions I walk through, all the choices I make, all the prayers that I pray. That abiding truth that the most important things are always the humble things. And all those big things that cause us so much anxiety and consternation and sleepless nights and strangling fear? Those things will be swept up and consumed by the sun rising on tomorrow. Because it always, always does.

Every single day is awash with grace, dear ones. Grace for the many ways this could go, and grace for how it turns out.

These babies are growing and changing. Life keeps on. I'm walking through this season with the knowledge that we are all wrapped in mercy, every breath we take. And I'm calling it good.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017


So we launched in. I made lunches and kids woke early and we somehow made it in plenty of time. People smiled. The kids shyly slid into their seats. I walked back to my empty car and drove away.

I think I expected to feel something different than I did, but it didn't come. I expected a sharp stabbing pain of loss - but it didn't happen.

Instead I woke on Wednesday feeling a little off and, after spending the afternoon in the emergency room for chest pain and shortness of breath, was sent home with the diagnosis of pneumonia. Because nothing can ever be easy. Not the first week of a major life change. That coupled with some things not working out the way I thought they would (only 3 kids attending school instead of the 5 I had planned on), and instead of loss and sadness I've been feeling a bit whipped around. A lot disoriented. Not sure what to do going forward, but also limping along with something new and strange and uncomfortable. I had hoped this would be a chance to catch my breath, a chance to claim some clarity, a chance to make some decisions with strength and decisiveness. Instead, I mostly feel pulled in a million directions, driven to distraction by information overload and the after shock of a major change.

In so many ways, we traded one type of complicated for another. I muddle through day after day here, each just as chaotic as the next and wonder - is this really better? And I'm not sure. From that first dash to get the kids out the door to the homework struggles amidst laundry piles later in the day and all the toddler preschool disasters in between, it's honestly just as nuts - maybe even more. The kids are doing so well although it has been and continues to be an adjustment for each and every one of us.

My Mama always used to say, "no matter where you go, there you are," and I think it applies here. I think perhaps I thought school might be the magic wand waved over my life that filtered things into neat little manageable piles. Instead, I'm still very much me. Chaotic. Tumultuous. High tempered and hopelessly disorganized.

Still, I'm finding a reassuring strength in trying something new. In swallowing down nerves and going to conferences with teachers and facing that hesitancy of putting my heart in their hands with gritted teeth and marked determination. Maybe that's the important thing? Parts of all of us are growing in ways we weren't before. At the end of the day, even when I didn't get to the things that I would in the ways I thought I should, I can count that as good. I'm stepping out and doing hard things I never thought I could before, just like my kids.

That's something, after all.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

School, Change and Identity

On Monday morning, everything changes.

The beginning of a new week always feels that way. It's funny, this kind of arbitrary system we all agreed on. that Monday is the start. The beginning. Something new, something fresh. Something different. Like we're slipping off the garment of everything that came before and stepping into the stark light of something unknown.

On Monday morning, everything changes.

For the first time ever, my kids are going to school. There are so many decisions and thoughts and feelings and questions that go along with that, but there it is. Truth be told, I don't really know how to talk about it yet. It's a cautious and delicate thing I'm sure will take me quite a while to unwrap for myself, much less others. All I know for today is that God is good and this feels right and I know they'll be fine. As for me, well...

Not unlike when I made the choice to greet Maggie in the hospital instead of at home, my wonderful friends rush in with reassurance. And, in the same way, I'm not sure it will help. Yes, I know teachers love children and the school is a wonderful place. Yes, I know my kids will be well looked after, will make friends, will love it there. Yes, I know, everything will be alright. Yes, yes.

And yet.

There's a sort of humility in opening ourselves up to change - yes, even right down to the things staked our identity on. Homeschooling was one of those things, for me. A part of me from my own first day as a homeschooled kid, through the 9 years I taught my own kids in my own home. I keep myself busy getting them ready but deep down there's a little whisper growing louder all the time, something insistent that demands to be heard. Something keening, muffled but there all the same. Something I'll have to deal with, sooner or later. A little bit of heartbreak.

I don't know what tomorrow brings. Or next Fall, or ten years from now. I don't know how a house feels without the big kids home, or really what we're going to do with ourselves. Maybe it's just a season, or maybe I'm taking one last look at what life was like once upon a time. I don't know.

I'm still learning, after all this time, that aligning my self worth and identity with man made labels and tags is a fools errand. Who I truly am isn't something that can be changed so easily. It follows me through all the twists and turns life takes and sticks close to me on the darkest of days. Eternally loved, emphatically chosen.

So, on Monday morning, I'll pack lunches and hug the people who I love more than anything on this planet and feel along the razor sharp edge of love and pain and growth and change. Believing that this could be the start of something beautiful, bursting through what was before.

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