Introspective Insights

Introspective - adj: Examining sensory and perceptual experiences. Insight - n: The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation.

The Party that Wasn’t

We’ve prepared for this day – cake ordered, paper goods bought, theme chosen, invitations sent, gifts waiting. We’ve prepared for this day to celebrate, because that is what you do to celebrate the lives of these children – our blessings. But what if the party wasn’t to be?

Guests arrive; birthday boy playing and having fun, food ready, gifts piled high…excitement builds…balloons sway.

But then he is slowing down…he wants us to hold him, we do. He grows warm, he can’t keep his eyes open, his food uneaten. The party stops. We talk, we wait, but we all keep asking ourselves the question…what if the party can’t continue? What will we do with the cake – uncut – too much to eat by this family of five. Gifts, unwrapped…no one to observe the tearing and celebrating?

He sleeps and we wait…it is not a long time, but it is anguish. What if? Should we cut the cake anyway? It would be heartbreaking for him not to blow out candles… As parents, we wait, because we want our children to experience the best of what we have for them. We plan and we wait patiently…giving grace because in doing so, we experience the joy of our children unwrapping all we have for them.

Someone else is waiting for us…our heavenly Father. He has given us so many gifts…our cake beautifully decorated, he – anxiously waiting. Will she take the gift of grace I have for her? He, accept who I am? He waits…gifts collecting dust…cake uncut…company of heaven waiting. How heartbreaking for him to wait on us receiving his love – accepting the gift of who he is and the gifts of each day – each moment – that he wants to bring to our lives.

He wakes up…medication working – blows out the candles, wants to open gifts. Jumps and screams and yells after the ripping and tearing – plays. Thank goodness – this party WAS…it happened; we finish celebrating and are thankful. We hold him close.

He wants to hold YOU close – unwrap the gifts – come to the party, eat the cake – RECEIVE what he wants you to have today. He is waiting for you – accept the gifts of today and let the party begin.

To My Wonderful Boy

This is a tribute to my son Zachary who turned three on 2/4.

Three years ago, you came into this world after one triumphant push…your sweet little cry filling my ears. My sweet, special boy – the result of my 2nd pregnancy and first labor. Eleven hours of labor – I was giddy and happy when my water broke and introspective through the hard, late hours. Pushing you out was the hardest work I have ever done, but definitely the most rewarding.

My heart raced for a day…but I was fine. I stared at you in your clear little bed – swaddled, hat on, little face squinted in sleep. You cooed, and sighed and I knew that I was in love…love at first sight. What would I do with you, my sweet little boy?

You name – Zachary John – means “remembered by a gracious God” and oh, how gracious He had been to me – that day – those days following your birth.

It is three years later and I can’t believe how you have grown. Not quite a toddler, not quite a boy, but always wonderful. You make me laugh – your twice dimpled smile makes me melt. I cannot resist you. Loud, fast, running, jumping, screeching, growling, tackling me…you pause and your little arms are around my neck, “I love you mommy.” I am still in love with you my son.

I didn’t know how to love a boy, how to raise you, how to do this thing – being your mom, but you showed me how. I will never be the same since we met. I’m so grateful that God gave you to me. Happy birthday, my Zachary John.

Distant Horizon

Today I’m working hard at finding the good…looking for what to thank Him for…finding the joy. Because if I relied on my circumstances, I would be overcome. Tragedy always seems to come in multiples and I can’t sit here and anticipate the next one. Instead I can try to stop, right here and turn it around. Being right here is how I can experience the joy…only here, only now.

I’ve been writing it all down the last week or so – per day, by number. I’m determined – determined to grasp this joy – I won’t give up. I’m thankful for:

50. Blue sky in the distance beyond the clouds.

51. Being home with a sweet baby girl, who even though she is sick is in good spirits.

52. Having known an awesome person, my brother-in-law, who God decided he needed more.

You see, if I look forward, past all this and think about what I have to get through – what we have to get through as a family, I miss the joy of what is right now. Even if it isn’t ideal or easy or simple. Even if it is complicated, messy, painful. That joy does not rely on my circumstances – what is happening around me, but this conscious decision to be thankful no matter what.

So I stop and look outside. The blue sky is out there – far in the distant horizon. I can’t reach it and maybe it will never be right here, but I can see it and be thankful. I can stop and experience this moment and name it and write it down and then it is mine forever.

Friends, please stop today – stop right where you are. See that joy in front of you…experience NOW, don’t rush past, hang on to this moment – there will never be another one like it. Life is too fragile to keep going this fast. That distant horizon is not beyond you or out of reach, but right here.

Don’t let it get away.

The Sound of the Tea Kettle

Years ago, at Grandma’s house, the sound of the tea kettle called us to every meal. Sturdy and shiny with no top – only the small spout to fill with water. We came and ate and she sipped…and I will never forget.

Tea unites us…

Brother’s red tea in a far away land

Mom’s Lipton for everyday iced tea

Grandma’s Salada so hard to find

Best friend’s green tea in all forms – hot, cold, sweetened, bottled

Lost friend’s cinnamon spice

Niece’s chai

Father in law’s room temperature black tea

Friend’s herbal spiced tea

Sister’s Oh My Chai!

My love – out drinking white tea

Sweetened, unsweetened, milk, cream, hot, cold, tea latte…

The tea kettle – its soft whistle unites us – binds us together in friendship, love, and connects us when we are miles apart. Memories, warmth, soothing, peaceful.

It’s cold, my friends…turn on the tea kettle…I’ll be there with you in spirit.

Holding On

She – round, dimpled face, messy hair, mischievous smile…running, squealing, trying so hard to talk.

Me – momma to three, watching my last baby growing so fast…each stage so bittersweet, holding on so tight…too tight, maybe.

Last few days…so.hard.to.face.

Not so long ago, she was born; so fast her sweet little head didn’t have time to become misshapen. Breastfeeding was as natural as if we had known each other our whole lives. The hours spent in my comfy place as she nursed…I watched the snow fall. Time slips through the hourglass and I’m in denial of what is so obvious…it’s all ending…one of the last glimpses of babyhood.

She would rather play and read her books…so opinionated in her arched back and fussing…toddlerhood embraced so soon…too soon…my heart hurts.

I swallow my tears…I smile and hug and kiss her…I let her go…those little wings starting to take flight…

My sweet baby, how I will miss our quiet moments in the half light, your content sighs, your sweet little face sleeping in my arms, so close…

I will never forget this time we’ve had together my little Abby. I don’t know when it ends, but I’m always here, my love.

Half Way There

If you are like me, you start the work week begrudgingly…trying to keep a good attitude for the kids. “School will be fun! You get to see your friends and have recess!” “Daycare will be great – you get to play with your buddies!” But of course, the truth is – none of us is happy about it.

Tuesday is really a pointless day in the week – too close to the beginning to feel like you’ve made it anywhere, not further enough into the week to feel like you are almost there.

But Wednesday OH WEDNESDAY! Thank goodness for “hump day”. Just getting through Wednesday feels like the climb up the mountain was somehow bearable. Maybe you even think to yourself, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad – I can make it!”

It’s nice to make it half way – to feel that sense of accomplishment, to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Making it half way of course assumes that you can see the end point. That is the trouble, though isn’t it? In this life we can’t see the end point – we don’t know the landmarks that tell us we are almost there. It is human nature to be striving towards some sort of goal – some lofty motivator for all that we do.

You could argue as a person of faith that heaven is that goal – that everything we should be doing is pointing us there and we need to be sure to stay the course. I cannot argue with you on that point. However, I believe that our God wants us to focus on the journey – the relationships, the connections, the love that we share with others. John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (emphasis mine). But if you are like me, it is just so darn hard to love people! Sure, I respect all people as those created in God’s image and really strive to live out that belief in how I treat others. My family members, close friends, and even some acquaintances – yes, I DO love them. But once I get outside that group, I really struggle.

This journey I’m on, I can’t see the goal, I don’t recognize the sign posts, I have only now to experience and somehow practice love with all that I encounter. It is clear that I need supernatural help on this one. But thankfully, God has got me covered on this one. Mark 11:24 says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

So Father, I ask you now, teach me how to love so I don’t have to worry about where I’m at during this journey. Please let me know that I’m right where I am supposed to be. Let that be enough.

My Sweet Abigail

To my Abigail – a very late birthday tribute.

I look in those deep, blue eyes and touch my fingertip to her dimple and watch her wiggle and shoulder sway across the room. This sweet, little baby is NOT a baby anymore, but a toddler?!?!?! I’m in disbelief…

I think back to last year at this time – sweet little bundle in my arms sleeping and nursing, waking me up at all hours, cooing, and snuggling, and smelling of sweet, newborn goodness. I look out at the same snow, quietly falling, darkness drifting in…

This little girl – the gift I didn’t know I needed…I can’t imagine life without her screeching and boisterous laugh, sweet little hands around my neck, pulling my hair, open-mouthed kisses that sometimes bite. So smart – pointing at what she wants, nodding and shaking her head yes at questions I ask – so staunchly opinionated about life.

My sweet Abigail, my life was not complete without you. I’m in awe of the gift that is you and I enjoy every minute we have been given together. In some ways I wish that time would stop, but it is so much more exciting watching you grow and become the sweet little girl God made you to be. I love you my sweet babe.

Community is What You Make It

I have been very reflective lately – this is such a busy time with Christmas and a recent tragedy on my mind. (Sorry, I’m not ready to discuss it here yet.) In times like this you rely on people close to you to celebrate and also process tough experiences.

We have lived in our neighborhood for 7 years and for some reason, it has been incredibly difficult to meet people. Most people on our quiet street are, well, quiet and are not out that much. If they are out it always seems to be on off times from when we are out. The people we have met have been nice, but we have not formed any close friendships – something that has been frustrating to me for a long time.

But look at the title of this post – community is what you make it and well, I just didn’t realize how important that was for me here in my quiet corner of the world and for a friend I recently said good bye to. For me – being with family and getting to know the people that are close are very important to me, but I have not made the effort probably in both camps to really foster the community I’ve been craving. My friend, on the other hand, made her mark, built her community and at her memorial a diverse group of people paid their respects. It was something to see and something I will never forget.

My 5 year old daughter, Kayla, said last week, “Mommy, Daddy, I want to give a candy cane to everyone on our street for Christmas.” Brilliant! Jerry secured the candy canes and a few days later Kayla and I spent 1 hour and 15 minutes handing out candy canes. We met nearly every one of our neighbors. I can’t believe that she figured out how to solve this 7 year problem I’ve had with such a simple gesture. I believe this is the start of something big – a tradition – a means of reaching out. I’m not really sure what yet. All I know is that I’m in awe of this sweet girl and the impact she is having on me and my idea of what community is.

So as the holiday season is ending, keep that sense of community and common goals and purpose alive with your neighbors, friends, and family. Reach out, pay attention, find ways to care and communicate. It could be the start of something big for you also.

Three Jewels

I stare at my right hand, ring finger at the 3 little jewels in this band of gold. You can catch me doing this every once in awhile – studying the stones. I love jewelry like any other woman does, but this isn’t why I’m staring…why I’m taking in the colors, the shimmer, the uniqueness of each stone. No, these stones represent my children – this is my mother’s ring. Jerry insisted that I get this ring and of course, I’m all for new jewelry so I agreed. When it came in, I almost didn’t like it – sad but true. The stones didn’t fit together, the white gold made my finger look pasty, I couldn’t get used to the order I had chosen for the stones. I didn’t know what finger to wear it on…blah, blah, blah. (You are probably starting to understand that I’m picky and almost OCD about certain things.) After a few months of wearing it, I decided that the emerald just didn’t look right in the setting – it seemed off center. The jeweler agreed and 4 weeks later (after having to replace the emerald 2 times) I ended up with a ring that fit better, looked better, and actually was worth more. This emerald was now a natural emerald instead of lab created – and it sparkled.
And so I stared more intently…I was in awe of how different the ring was – but was it really? Or was I different? These lifeless stones now meant something to me. Each stone representing a child – so precious, unique and irreplaceable.
A deep emerald with inclusions that months after wearing it – I still discover something new. The emerald is my Kayla – and isn’t that true of her? There are layers to this child that I never stop discovering. She makes me laugh, cry, and just love her more because of the unique, intense little girl that she is.
Amethyst for Zach – my zany one. All boy – loud, fast, and multifaceted. He runs laps one second and then climbs in my arms, kissing me and saying he loves me the next. So what I need.
Citrine for Abby – shiny and bright – this stone stands out from the rest. Not because she is better than the other kids, but because she was the gift I didn’t know I needed in my life. Her laugh is contagious, boisterous and I’ll never forget the complete surprise I felt the first time I heard it. She may be little, but she always makes sure her voice is heard.
These 3 little jewels in this twisted metal – tarnished and scratched – gleaming, sparkling, always catching my eye. Reminding me that the gift of these children God gave me not once, not twice, but three times. I am in awe that he would choose me to parent these children.
Oh – I mess up, I yell, I’m impatient, I will never be perfect – yet God still chose me for them. So I keep looking and marveling over these wonderful gifts. And as I admire I thank you, Father for choosing me.

Traditions

With the holidays right around the corner, this time of year is ripe with traditions of all kinds. While there are the “biggies” – the turkey at Thanksgiving and the tree for Christmas, there are many small traditions this time of year that just warm my heart.

Even though we are in a large metro area, the town next to us has a small town feel to it with a park in the city center. Every year they put up a lit Menorah, lights on the big pine tree, play Christmas music, and put up a near life size nativity set. What is so great about this nativity set is that they have a set of wise men that travel through the park to see baby Jesus. The set went up yesterday and as they are every year, the wise men are set far back in the park away from the nativity set. Every week or so they travel to see the baby Jesus. Our kids love this – we drive past the park every few days to see if the “wise guys” have moved. This is such a simple thing that me makes me happy deep inside.

Some other simple traditions we love:

  • Enjoying a warm, wood burning fire and watching the parade on Thanksgiving day. That last few years it has snowed the day before Thanksgiving. There is nothing like coming inside from the cold to the warmth of family and friends in front of a fire.
  • Cutting down our Christmas tree on a farm. We always do this the first weekend in December. Some years it has been sunny and 40 degrees. One year it was 20 degrees and a blizzard. We take the kids and they help pick the tree. One year, Kayla ate icicles the whole time.
  • Eating the largest cheese pizza we can find as our Christmas Eve dinner with wine of course. The last few years we’ve had a 24 inch pizza that barely fits on the table. The local pizza place we go to knows us and our tradition which for some reason makes it more special.
  • Arranging a snack and cookie fest on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. This tradition has evolved over the years. It started at my parent’s house where we would cook appetizers and cookies and load up the table. We went to church on Christmas Eve and then we came back and ate and opened presents and stayed up until obnoxious hours of the morning. Nowadays we usually hold the feast on Christmas Day in the afternoon where Jerry’s family (and whoever else is in town from my family) comes over and we graze all day.

What simple traditions are you looking forward to this season?