A place of love

This past weekend we headed to Snoqualmie Falls for a hike down to the falls.  We haven’t been there in ages.  Back in our high school days we went there often, hiking, sitting, snuggling, just taking in the beauty of the place.  We went a few years ago before kids probably.  We’d forgotten how steep the trail is down to the bottom.  We used to traipse down it blissfully hand in hand in no time at all.  It was a place where in June of 1997 as we sat on some rocks and watched the water, Christopher started into a speech about his undying love for me.  As he talked I realized it was ‘the’ talk and I forgot most of what he said.  I was just waiting for the moment I could tell was coming.  I’d waited a long time, early in our dating, I knew he was the one.  But we dated 4 years because we were so young.  The look on my face gives a good indication of what I felt in the moment:

I was beyond thrilled to have that ring on my finger, I was hopelessly smitten.  It was exactly the ring I’d dreamed of, simple and timeless and very sparkly.  He’d done his research.  It was the perfect gift.

Aside from his pledge to love me forever, the gifts that came a few year later are the most treasured ones I’ve ever received:

It was incredibly nostalgic for me to be in the place where we shared sweet moments together 12 even 13 years ago and to have our children with us.  So much has changed and some things feel the same.  We’ve weathered more than I dreamed possible.  The love we share has grown deep roots as it has been tossed about by life.  The old adage about love growing over time seemed strange to me, like it was impossible to love him more than the day we married.

But I am starting to understand it now…

…and I do.

Kyler is synonymous…

…with mischief.  But honestly, I thought we were past the worst of it, I think we probably are.  However, today I learned these things:

1.  When a mama smells something burning but isn’t cooking, the kitchen is the last place to look.  When she is tempted to give up looking and is sure it’s just the neighbors burning some wood, she should not give up.

2.   Examining all the wall heaters in each room making sure nothing has been stuffed into them and caught on fire, is reasonable but possibly not helpful.

3.  Looking in the oven, three times, is not helpful either.  If it wasn’t on fire the first time, it likely won’t be in 2 minutes.

4.  Enlisting children to help determine where the smoke is coming from is a good idea-maybe.

5.  Trex decking material, though very stain-resistant (per our friend Justin who built our little deck), is apparently not fire proof.

6.  Heat lamps for chickens provide a lot of heat.  Especially when aimed (or directly face down) on the deck.  In fact I’m now sure they would catch a chicken on fire were it to touch the light.

7.  Lining up all the children and asking who turned on the heat lamp and laid in on the deck with a scary/scared mama face is a quick way to get the truth.

8.  Kyler is apparently not quite done with mischief.

9.  Pretty surely, the dad is not going to be a happy one when he sees the damage.

10.  The house is still standing.  Thank goodness for that.

Happy Birthday Rylee!

Happy 7th  Birthday Rylee!  It is quite something for me to think back and remember waiting 6 long days to even hold you in my arms after you were born 5 weeks early.  You fought hard to breathe, to live and faced incredible challenges in the first year of your life.  You overcame and your body was restored to perfect health.  And now, healthy as can be, you are turning 7.  I am amazed and blessed to know you.  You live with a certain amount of pressure and responsibility that always come along with being the first born.  You want to please, to succeed and to do things right.  You care a lot if you don’t do those things.  It is a quality that you come by naturally and one that will be both a blessing and a challenge in the years to come.  Your smile is bright when you share it-which is usually often, you are cautious and think before acting.  You are an amazing little reader and like learning when it’s on your terms.

Your greatest trait is the heart of compassion and care for others.  You often see a need before I do and do all you can to meet it.  You are tremendously sensitive to what is going with the people around you.  You ask more questions than most kids I know and I am praying for enduring patience to answer them and to foster the gift God gave you in that inquisitive nature.  You don’t want to miss anything.    And I don’t want to miss the delight it is to have you as our firstborn.  You are growing fast and you are abundantly loved.  You are like your daddy in that you are at your best at night, you lay in bed and read to me for as long as I let you.  You talk and talk and I try to stay awake to listen.  You love to sleep in and love being cozy.

Your presence made me a mother.  Your prayers (along with God’s providence) gave me another daughter to be your sister.  Your laughter is a daily blessing.  Your nurturing heart makes me smile.

Love always,

Mama

God and pain

Entire libraries could be filled with books and peoples’ thoughts and writings about pain and hard time and more specifically why God allows such difficult things.  But somehow in the midst of the heartache, sometimes reading a book about it seems ridiculous.

There is no road map for the path we are on.  There is no how-to book.  Sometimes there are truly no words.  I have scarcely had the heart to even utter anything at all to God these past weeks.  It reminds me of when Rylee was born, gravely ill and fighting for her little life.  I didn’t talk to Him for several months.  I didn’t know how.

What I did know, and believe still today, is that God hears the ache in our heart even when we can’t verbalize it.  When I was tempted to feel guilty for lack of prayer in those months following her birth, I felt Him whisper “You didn’t have to pray, I heard your heart and I watched every tear you cried.  I knew every longing and saw the fear overwhelm you.  I was there.”

I felt such relief and such freedom and such gratitude in that moment, I have never forgotten it.

Last night I made a list, a list of all that was weighing on me in an effort to make some sense of how I feel.  The list did not help, once I got to #15, I decided to quit.  His mercies are new every morning I told myself and forced sleep.

I read in Psalm 51 this morning, desperate for a tiny piece of Hope….Be gracious to me, O God, according to your lovingkindness…make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones (or the heart) which you have broken rejoice. Seemed like a pretty tall request, but I asked anyway.  Please be gentle Jesus, please carry our family onward and please heal the broken hearts.

He will.  Not in my way or in my time.  I think we will be walking through all of this for a while.  But I know He will come through, God has not failed me yet.

Disappointed me, yes.

Been silent for too long more than once, yes.

Not done what I deemed best, most certainly.

But His hand is unmistakeably real  to me.  It is an unwavering source of hope and strength, even when I have more doubts than faith.



Valentine’s Day

We went to Grammy’s house to share some love on Valentine’s Day…we decorated cookies and ate lots of frosting.

Audrey must have gotten 6 refills of frosting on her one cookie – all it took was a smile  and “mo” (more)

It was the first time we’ve been over at Grammy and Grampy’s since all the people are gone (except Aunt Pam).  It was back to normal but not then not really normal at all.   No Grampy.  So strange and still so sad.

I kept feeling like he should come around a corner and squeeze my shoulders and kiss me on the cheek like he does.  And tickle the kids running down the hall.

But he isn’t here and the pain is still so raw.

Winter pruning

Last spring I had the treat of attending a day long gardening workshop with Christine Sine in Seattle.  She and her husband Tom work with Mustard Seed Associates (MSA) which is a community of Jesus’ followers all over the world striving to create the future one mustard seed at a time.  Christine also blogs regularly here.

As the kids and I spent last Thursday with dear friends who live an hour north of us, Kim opened the book we’d received at that garden workshop and reminded me of Christine’s words on pruning trees in the winter:

“Why, I wonder, do we prune our fruit trees in the winter when they seem so bare and vulnerable?  Or probably more to the point, why does God insist on pruning our lives during the difficult winters or suffering that we all endure?  Winter pruning, like autumn planting, encourages roots to go down deeper and strengthens the tree.  The harder we prune, the more vigorous the spring growth and the greater the harvest.

God often plants us in places where winter is coming or prunes us during the frigid seasons of struggle and pain, when the branches seem bare and our souls feel most vulnerable.   If we really want to be fruitful during the seasons of harvest that God allows us, then we need to be willing to be pruned and shaped not during the times that life is good – when we can handle a little painful cutting – but during winter when we feel spring will never come again…

My mother has always reminded me that struggle and challenge in life produce character – and more than once I’ve told her “But I don’t want any more character, I think I’m done.”  It may sound prideful now, but at the time all I meant was this is too hard…I don’t see how I’ll make it through…it simply hurts too much. In Christine’s workbook (now an ebook), she includes this quote from Jean Vanier as she writes about winter:

We must go through winters of suffering, through times when prayer is hard and people no longer attract us, but spring is not far away.  A death in the family, a failure at work, a sickness which brings a new way of life, an unfaithful friend, all these are wounds to the heart that take us into a period of darkness.  The darkness is important.  We must learn to accept this winter as a gift from God and we will discover that the snow will melt and the flowers come up.

I needed that reminder.

Three years ago we walked through some serious darkness – a winter that seemed to last a couple of years.  And now since experiencing healing and restoration that only God is capable of, it has felt like a long season of promise and new growth.  No where near perfection.  But somewhere closer to grace.

The cold air of winter may be blowing on my face today.  My heart feels like it’s been taken apart at the moment.  But my head (and good friend) remind me what I know to be true.

God’s goodness and His unfailing love do not depend on the season we are walking in.

Worms in your fridge?

Last night there were 12 cups with these translucent little slimy guys in our fridge – my did they look cute and taste good!

Worm/Dirt cup recipe

1 package of natural, non-hydrogenated Oreo cookies processed in the food processor
1 large box of instant chocolate pudding mix
2 cups cold milk (I use nonfat, can’t tell the difference)
1 8 oz package cool whip
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, marshmellows, nuts, etc for use as ‘rocks’ in your dirt
Gummy worms

Pour milk into bowl, add pudding mix.  Whisk 1-2 minutes then let sit 5 minutes till firmed up.  Fold in whipped topping.  Stir in 1 cup of crushed cookies and all the ‘rocks’ into mixture.  Sprinkle 1 T cookies into bottom of clear 8 oz cups.  Spoon pudding mixture over top.  Sprinkle more cookie crumbs over top then add gummy worm.  Freeze or chill until ready to serve.

Skinny jeans for the not-quite-skinny

The full circle of fashion is sometimes quite amusing.

It was 15 years ago that skinny (then called ‘tapered’) jeans were cool.  It was convenient that I was skinny then so they worked out okay for me.

Four babies and a fair bit of baby weight later…I should have figured that skinny jeans probably are not in the cards for me.

However, a few months ago after my husband surprised me with Uggs one Saturday afternoon, I thought I ought to give them a try.  The boots were so cute but under jeans you couldn’t see their flair.    I came home with a pair that I thought looked as decent as any and wore them for the past few months.

I’m not sure why but something possessed me to ask my sweet husband a few days ago this simple question…

Do these jeans look good on me?”

Now, honestly I wanted a truthful answer.  It may seem loaded but from my end it wasn’t.

But the poor guy, I could see him take a deep breath in and he carefully responded in a calm and cool voice –

“Why do you ask me these questions?  What am I supposed to say?”

I see panic in his face but I myself am truly not worked up, just trying to sort through the issue of these jeans that has been bothering me.  Really, should they be shelved or shouldn’t they?  So I prod a bit further…

“Do you think I look good in these jeans is what I’m asking?  Do you like them on me?”

He pauses and ponders and I feel now a little bit guilty for causing such a to-do about a pair of jeans but clearly, there is more to the issue here than jeans-at least that is I’m sure what he’s thinking at this point.  This is his oh-so-diplomatic response to the woman he loves –

“I like you.  And you like those jeans.”

So there was my answer.  I smiled at him and put the jeans away.

It’s taken 10 years but we can finally have a conversation about my clothing and how it looks and not suffer from a day or two long cold-shoulder or high blood pressure or any other significant trauma.

I remind myself that I know well and good how much he loves me and that it doesn’t hinge on what jeans I wear.  I don’t give myself permission to be irrational and make a big fuss about his answer.

Why we (most) women tend to make it so difficult and ask such ‘hard’ questions of the ones we love, I’ll never know.  But for me at least, actually wanting an honest opinion instead of wanting to have the truth stretched into something that made me feel better is one of  my secrets to increased marital bliss.