Friday, March 10, 2017

Caryn

Sorting through laundry this morning and I remembered. 
It's her birthday.  March tenth.  It's Caryn's birthday.
Closing the washing machine lid I went looking for my phone.  Finding it I sent out a quick birthday text. 
Memories started to playing back in my mind.  Snapshots of elementary school, middle school, high school, and even back to last year.
I decided to write about Caryn today because her life is brimming over with treasure.
We can all learn a lot from Caryn.
I know that I have.
When I think about Caryn's life I can actually see all of the elements of an astounding story.  Only right now she's somewhere in the thick of the conflict trying to fight through to the peaceful resolution, the happy ending.

First memory of Caryn is in fifth grade.  Silky hair streaked gold from the sun.  Olive colored skin.  Bright green eyes.  I am looking at her in the library and we have all just learned that she moved from North Carolina. 
The following year after we had all fallen in love with Caryn the golden hair is gone.
I see her sitting across from me at a local restaurant.  She's wearing a baseball cap.  Smooth skin peeking out from the cap.
We all smile at the camera.  A group of us sixth graders enjoying a day out courtesy of a willing mom.  There's Caryn.  Smiling. Being brave.  Bald.
Caryn has alopecia. 
What is alopecia?
Quick summary : An auto immune disorder that means you can lose hair all over your body.  Eye brows, eye lashes, body hair, and of course the hair that crowns your head. It may grow back and it may not.  Once the hair regrows it may fall out all over again. Over and over again.
Caryn's been dealing with alopecia for over twenty years now.
Some years Caryn's hair returned.
Other years she wore wigs, hats, or simply went brave and bald.
Alopecia seemed to leave Caryn in high school. I forgot about her even having it.
She was always laughing and she had a razor sharp tongue that could put anyone in their place.
She excelled in all kinds of sports.  Especially running. 
She was very popular and boys adored her.
I spent so many summer afternoons at our neighborhood pool with Caryn. Her dark tan deepening by the minute. We took walks as the crickets cried in the summer dusk.  We frequently walked whenever we were exasperated by our parents.  Each exchanging stories as we stomped circles around our neighborhood.
One year Caryn had a foreign exchange student live with her.  Then the three of us spent unending hours together.
When I picture Caryn back in high school I see this ridiculously wide smile extending right into her sparkling green eyes.  Her eyes were always a combination of sarcasm, laughter, and mischief.

After high school the memories lessen of course and more storms begin for Caryn...
She faces the break up of her family.
The selling of her family home, remarriages of her parents, and the relocating of her sisters.
All of her hair falls out weeks before her own wedding.
She marries, but things seem to fall apart in only a handful of years.
She's wrestles the woes of a troubled marriage for years.
Separation. Back together. Divorce.
And none of it she wanted.  She so wanted it to work. 
She's worked low paying jobs with the desire to teach others her passion, the Spanish language.
She's made career changes with her single status and is now also a personal trainer. 
She has fought cancer scares, surgeries, full blown alopecia, infidelity, and now a new season of completely being on her own.  With no one.

Caryn has always been a few things:
... brutally honest
...a fighter
...tough as nails
... more than anything one that does not quit!

She never gives up.
Sometimes the tenacity with which she fights for things drives me crazy.  Sometimes I want to say, "Please give that up! Let it go! Be free and move on with your one beautiful life!"
But no matter what I or anyone says she fights things out until the end.  She doesn't give up. Unless literally forced to.

At the beginning of last year I was sitting on my couch confused and just trying to  make it through each day at a time. Someone texted me. It was Caryn.  After several years of not seeing each other regularly and only occasionally hearing from each other we were joined together again.  She was trying to raise her head above the waters of her own life storm.  We were both in storms.
Storms that were totally different.
I was surprised she wanted to be my friend again.  I didn't feel myself to be worthy of it.

We listened to each others insight, encouragement, and all over the place moments for the whole year.  Sending each other Bible passages, praying on the phone with each other, and seeing each other the couple of times she came back into town.

I'm not like Caryn.  She is strong in ways I will never be.  I'm not brave and I'm not someone who never gives up.  I give up far too easily.  I'm not sure of myself and I get lost in my own mind. But Caryn didn't reject that in me instead she loved me anyways.

To the girl that grew up beside me and is in so many of my memories.
To the girl who is okay with herself brazenly bald and looks beautiful without one follicle of hair anywhere on her head.
To the girl whose heart is deeply impressed with love for all kinds of people.  Who is fascinated by people's stories, Spanish speaking peoples, and most of all children.
To the girl with rock solid biceps and a back taut with muscles.
To the girl that came to see me this summer and spent so much time playing with my kids and letting them bake whatever they wanted with her deep into one late July night. Flour dusting the table and a mixer spinning well past midnight.
To the girl who tells me bluntly how it is.
To the girl that doesn't give up and keeps pushing and fighting through all the pain and tears.
Happy Birthday Caryn.
You're life is a pure gift.




Friday, February 24, 2017

Slow - Five Minute Fridays





Interruptions slow.
Interruptions are detours that weave you through backstreets like stray ribbons.
Sometimes backstreets refresh.  You see different parts of the neighborhoods you pass every day.
I'm okay with detours if I'm not in a mad rush to get somewhere.
We get figurative detours almost every day.
Perhaps not roads that twist us through communities and thwart our fast attempts to get to our destination. Extra tasks emerge that we weren't expecting, lost items to search for, or perhaps a sweet friend on our doorstep. 
Wednesday found me mentally checking off items in my head.  I had seemed to be more productive than usual. 
I started to walk down stairs to grab towels out of the dryer quickly so that I could make a trip to the grocery store.  I heard my name being called.
"Hey Somer!" I heard a recognizable voice call out through the noise of my chattering four year old and one year old. 
I walked back upstairs and saw my sweet friend Rachelle in my living room.
"There was a detour on my way home. It put me right by your house. I thought I'd stop by and see you." She explained.
I felt a smile stretch across my face.
My brain that was spinning fast to get everything done braked.
"I guess I won't finish that list today." I thought to myself knowing that a visit with her would probably take up the rest of the time I had left before I needed to leave for church.
"Would you like some tea or coffee? " I asked putting down whatever cluttered my hands.
We curled up on the couch while my kids occupied themselves.
I got to hear from her.
We talked about her classes, her job, her family, recipes, and several other items that filled up every last second of time.
Half way through my one year old felt so relaxed that he crawled up in my lap and fell asleep, lulled by our conversation and the drizzly weather. 
Rarely does he ever fall asleep in my lap.
Clasping him against my chest, feeling the rise and fall of his breath, and listening to Rachelle laugh and explain plot lines of books and shows was pleasant and peaceful.  Slow.
When it was time for me to dash off to church I got up satisfied. I was happy that my afternoon had slowed and handed me two hours with hot tea and a sweet friend.
Sometimes detours and interruptions are the perfect things to slow down time and quiet your heart.
I just have to embrace the interruption as something meant for me and decide to enjoy it.

http://katemotaung.com/

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sister Birthdays

The four sisters in my life share birthday weeks.
Two in February.
Two in July. 
Both within a few days of each other.

This week my sister of the heart celebrated her birthday and so does my real sister.
It's funny.  I've joked with both women about February.  And how much we love it.
It's that short and sweet love themed month.
It fits because two of the most loving people I know begin their story in February.

Heart Sister.
I never knew when I met her that I would become intricately connected to her.
I remember being intimidated by her, but surprised by how kind she was to me.
Of course I was intimidated.  She is stunning. Naturally bright blonde hair and equally bright blue eyes.
Recently, I was at a dinner party and someone asked the question, "Who is the kindest person you know?" It was supposed to be a question to ponder, but instantly I whispered her name.
I didn't have to think about it.  It was an automatic response because it was the truth I've known. 
An experiential truth.
When we were becoming friends I remember an early conversation we had that made me think of C.S. Lewis' observations on friendship's birth, "When one person says to another 'What? You too! I thought I was the only one."
It continues to surprise me how often I can say that.
Sometimes God allows you to be friends in times of sunshine and joy. Sometimes you are friends with someone all your life because of family ties or school. Sometimes God hands you a friend in a storm and you both walk through together.
Storms can fuse you tightly to someone's soul.  And if we are friends with anyone long enough we either wade out the storm together or we part ways. 
I'm so thankful I know her. 
She is the kindest person I know.
I don't know how many times I have asked her what she is doing....
and she is helping out some member of her family
or she is rubbing an elderly lady's feet
or she is taking food or cookies to a friend
or she is running off to school to surprise her kids with lunch
or she is watching someone's children for them to run errands
or perhaps she hands me or someone else a bag of items she scouted out at the thrift shop...just because..
or sometimes it's just me listening to her ideas of how to help someone else
I don't know anyone who is quite as brave as her.
Who is both vulnerable and humble. 
My world is so much better for knowing her.
She has offered me insight from God's Word at just the right time with eyes brimming with compassion, mercy, and love. 


My real sister. The one I shared a purple quilt with for most of my first 18 years.  Even when we had separate rooms and separate beds we still found our way into each other's. 
She's the sister I looked nothing like. The one with chocolate curls dripping a frame around her freckled face.
The sister you grow up beside is the person that watches you in every phase of your life.  You learn life together.
You are the only ones that understand your family. That know exactly what the family language is and all of the hidden family rules and procedures. 
The one you shared clothes with all through high school and all of the same sport teams.
She's the perfect aunt for my kids.  Eliciting cries of delight whenever she walks through the door, "Chica!" my girls yell and baby Mac toddles up to her knees.  She is fun.  :)

Faith has had many challenges this year, but she has overcome them.  She's always been fiercely independent and competitive.
This year I've seen her walk through grief and turmoil.  I've seen her shed a lot of tears and ask so many questions, but I've also seen true joy and happiness lighting her eyes.
One thing that has changed over the past couple of years is Faith's ability to find joy in the crazy schedule she keeps.  I don't hear her complain much anymore.  Instead I hear her hopes and dreams and how she plans to make them happen. 
I've always been proud of my sister.  Always. I felt like I was blessed to have her. Even though we have very different ways of dealing with and looking at the world we fit together.
She's the one I want to share the kitchen with and try out new recipes with.
She's the one I check on daily.
She's the one I want to succeed and find happiness.
She's the one I want to come over on a long and tiring day and share a couch and Netflix with.
I really can't imagine my life without her.  She's the reason I always wanted a set of my own sisters'.  There is nothing quite like a sister to share your life with.

Happy Birthday to my two sisters. 


Friday, February 10, 2017

French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon (Books to Read)



Sometimes after mulling over books to read you decide upon a title that seems like a wildcard.  It’s not your normal story line or genre.  And sometimes that’s a great thing!
French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon was my wild card read.  The cover and title captured my attention.  I was intrigued by the idea that any kids ate everything.  A foreign concept in my world.  
Author, Karen Le Billon takes you on a journey.  This journey is the account of her year spent away from Canada and living in Brittany, France.  Le Billon has two children and is married to a Frenchmen.  The story details their attempts to mesh with French food culture, especially in the realm of feeding her children the French way. She has humor generously sprinkled throughout this book. You smile at her attempts to gain ground in healthy eating that solidly lands her in a myriad of mishaps.
She’s transparent about the struggles she has melding into a new culture and doing things that those surrounding her do with ease.  Like feeding her children a balanced and varied diet.  She describes the struggle of being an outsider in a culture where food rules are a large part of society.  
The book finds its outline in these ten rules, dubbed French Food Rules:
  1. Parents : You are in charge of Food Education!
  2. Avoid emotional eating : No food rewards, bribes!
  3. Parents plan and schedule meals and menus: Kids Eat what Adult’s Eat! No Short Order Cooking
  4. Eat Family Meals Together: No distractions
  5. Eat Your Veggies : Think Variety
  6. You Don’t Have to Like it, but You Do Have to Taste it!
  7. No snacking! It’s ok to feel hungry between meals
  8. Slow Food is happy food, As in Eat slow!
  9. Eat Mostly Real Food – treats are special occasions
  10. Remember eating is joyful – RELAX
Karen comprises her list of rules based on the values and practices of French Culture.   She comes up with ways to implement these ideas and goes back to the drawing board when her ideas don’t mesh with reality for her family. She commits different faux pas and violates cultural standards on different occasions.  And sometimes she wishes to forget their year in Brittany and find herself back in Canada devouring a bagel slathered with cream cheese and not trying desperately to persuade her young daughter to eat the beet and vegetable purees that are offered at preschool lunch time in France.   
At the end of her year in Brittany, France Karen heads back to Canada.  Upon reentering westernized culture her family is faced with the challenge of implementing French food rules into their lives.  That proves difficult.  She discusses the benefits and pitfalls of both cultures.
I suppose that a book spanning three hundred pages on food rules directed particularly to families and children might seem a bit much, but it is filled with insight and ideas that I haven’t thought of and new perspectives to approach family meals.
Here are the pearls of wisdom that I’m taking with me and trying to incorporate in my kids’ lives and my own:
“The average number of times children have to taste new foods before they willingly agree to eat them: the average is seven, but most parenting books recommend between ten and fifteen.” (pg.11).
Karen describes French parents as simply offering new foods to children and expecting that children will taste them.  They needn’t eat the full portion.  Just taste.  They believe with enough exposure children will eventually embrace the new flavors.   This concept had me revisit foods that I have offered my girls, but had little success with and were pulled from our menus.  Lately I have tried to include new fruits and vegetables whether raw, in side dishes, or served as fresh dessert.  
My girls gingerly touch the new offering sitting next to a familiar food on their dinner plate.  Madelyn’s nose curls slightly, “I know I won’t like this,” She predicts.  I remember Karen’s admonition to stay positive, “Oh you will.  Just taste it.  You just have to try it enough times!” Keep it pleasant. Karen describes the importance of being positive about all foods.  Not relegating some foods good and some bad.  If the girls can't offer a positive thing to say about a food I try to get them to say something about it's smell, appearance, or color.  "You don't like oranges yet, but don't they smell good?  Do you like the color?"  This is much better than forcefully demanding a clean plate.  It gives space for little people to warm up to food, not fear it. 

Karen highlights the importance of table in French culture.  “Food is never eaten standing up, or in the car, or on the go. Food is not eaten anywhere, in fact but at the table. And food is only served when everyone is at the table.” (page 27).
Karen describes the French as those who view meal times as supremely social times.  There is no snacking and emotional eating that takes place. Eating takes place with family at a table in an unhurried pause filled with warmth and connection, not hurry. People are satisfied with their meal because they have eaten it in the presence of loved ones and focused on the flavors and food in the moment.  They get up full.  
I have tried all school year to revamp my ideas of family dinners.  We are not all together every night, but the three or four nights we do share family dinner I’m trying to make it notably special.  This book really helped me rethink family dinner.  Refocus my approach on pleasure and enjoyment, instead of a power struggle or a surrender to kiddie only approved dishes.  
Last Monday night I remember scanning the faces of my children as they ate new foods and old ones willingly.  There were funny stories and adorable quotes emanating from the mouth of my four year old.  There was a nine year old downing seconds of a food I never thought I’d see her eat. Across the table sat my husband who smiled widely and seemed to really be enjoying our kids, the food, this sacred handful of moments we were all sharing. It’s working!  My heart smiled.  All the extra preparation and thought paying back in joyful small moment dividends.  
Later that evening as we cleaned up the kitchen together I paused over the open door of the refrigerator, “Look Keith” I pulled him over to the open door.  Dish cloth in hand he obliged me. “Look at what’s in the fridge” I said happily.  He nodded not nearly as amused, but being a good sport nonetheless, “Vegetables.” he muttered.  He went back to wiping down the counter.  I felt the joy of that victory.  It was long in coming.  It hadn't happened over night.  It had happened over the course of several months.  Gradually. 

I took notes and highlighted so much of Karen’s book but there are two things that I’m taking away too for my own personal growth: Pleasure and Slow Eating .
Karen highlights the French attention to pleasure at meals and in their thoughts towards food, “Pleasure is the most important goal for the French when they are seated at the table.  The most important thing is to enjoy your food.” (pg. 161). She contrasts this with the American approach that associates food primarily with health.  This is surprising noting elevated American obesity rates in comparison to the French.  French people seem to enjoy their food, yet maintain a healthier weight.  
She introduces the concept of slow eating being key to these realities.
Slow eating allows one to fully enjoy a meal.  Slow eating also enables you to realize your satiety level and realize you are indeed full.  You don’t overeat.  
I find myself putting my fork down and just talking, waiting to eat more bites.  I’m letting food fill me and letting my body tell me if I need another bite. The method proves true, I’ve been surprised at how full I can feel rather quickly if I eat slowly.  
Karen talks about the phrase the French ask their children at meal times end, “Are you satisfied?”  Not “Are you full?” I’ve been asking myself this question and found it helpful and enriching.  I’m making food with a higher attention to flavor, quality of ingredients, and most of all joy and I’m finding that I’m more satisfied with the result.
Food is one of the foundational ways we tend our bodies and the plate is the path way to family chatter and communing.  Why not put a precedence on this special time and tweak and tinker with different ways to make it better, more satisfying?
The best part of our meal is reflecting on the joy of the day.  Last week my friend told me they ask "What's your rose of the day?"  Rose meaning the sweet spot of the day. We are calling our joy of the day our rose and my girls love it.
We also tell jokes that aren't allowed to leave our special table.  The girls giggle and sometimes remind me of those special secret moments.

If you are weary of eating the same four kid approved meals and bored with dinnertime read this book :)
Here is the author's blog: https://karenlebillon.com/

Pre Dinner "Huddle"

My usual audience as I prepare family dinner



Fires & Forgiveness

Early Autumn found me praying daily, hourly about forgiveness.
I was praying it for myself and declaring that I offered it to others.
I was praying for other's to find there way to it's release. 
Forgiveness was the pulse throbbing through my mind.
We have all had moments, seasons, and offenses that make us justifiably unforgiving.  We are the wronged and we writhe with the call for justice.  Messages on forgiveness sear us, prick us, and irritate us.
But when you do wrong and need forgiveness like you need oxygen to take your next breath you start to explore the topic with intensity.
You see yourself in great need of forgiveness and you see those who have hurt you as your equal.  Those that you have withheld forgiveness from in the past now seem to be sharing your same patch of ground. You now stand with them like a penniless beggar bankrupt without forgiveness.
You stop seeing yourself as the wronged only, but now you have joined the group of wrongdoers.

One early October morning I submerged my hands in soapy water trying to wash the remnants of the previous night's dishes. I pulled out my kindle and searched for a sermon to accompany while I cleaned the stacks of crusty plates.
Randomly or so it seemed I clicked upon a sermon that delivered the most profound message on forgiveness I had ever heard.
I felt compelled to send this message to my husband.  I was nervous, but I did anyways. 
I didn't say much, but that night as we went through our dinner routine I noticed him antsy and on edge. 
He brought up the sermon I sent I could see the wrestle playing out on his face.  The message was hard to hear.  Hard for anyone who had someone to forgive. 

Later that week I sat at the table a pond of midmorning sunshine swirling around me.  A text from my husband snapped me out of the quiet.
"I'm doing a message on forgiveness." the text read and I gulped in wonder.
"Really?" I stared wide eyed at the screen.
That Sunday I sat in the back pew listening to my husband approach this topic.  I knew it was like climbing a craggy mountain or scaling a precipice.  It was difficult. It was a sacrifice.
I left with awe at the miracle I saw unfolding in Him.
He challenged everyone to make a list of all of the bottled up hurt that we were clenching white knuckled and burn the list.  Letting the flames eat away the debts owed us.  Considering all balances even and paid for.  Not to be reopened.
The next week he told me a couple friends were coming over to grill out.  "Oh okay.  Any special reason?" I asked.
"Yes, we are making our lists and we are going to burn them."
Surprise rose in my eyes and I was stunned to know these talked about lists were going to be fleshed out on paper. I nodded in agreement.  "I'll make one too."
Late that Friday night I quietly tucked into the corner of my couch with my list.  I thought it would be a bit taxing to write, but I didn't realize just how long it would take.  Everyone was already out by the fire pit but I still had a list to write.  It took me an hour. 
I thought I would start with the most current season of my life, but I didn't. 
When my pen hit the paper stuff from childhood came flooding out, filling up the college ruled lines.  I felt in those moments that I had to pen all of it out. Any pent up hurt I held would be released onto paper by my pen.  I worked my way through significant painful moments that had imprinted me with self loathing and left me wounded.  I filled up at least ten pages.  I worked from the earliest and put my pen down with things most recent.  Things I had long thought I had forgiven God resurfaced in my mind.  I put my pen down and almost shut the book, but I quietly knew I wasn't finished.  There were two more to forgive.  "I have to write down everything I really have held against God" I knew in my heart.  Even though God had never wronged me, yet my feeble and doubtful brain had quietly held things against Him.  I penned down as many doubt darkened corners of my mind that I had quietly contested against God.  None justified, but real to my heart.
Lastly I knew I was supposed to forgive myself.  Something I knew would most challenge me.
I knew that I had always, all my life kept a running tab of my wrongs and replayed them over and over torturously in my mind inwardly punishing myself endlessly.
A woman had met my eyes at church one day and whispered into my ear, "The person hardest to forgive is yourself."  I was stunned that she saw it and I nodded quietly tears springing to my eyes.
After I filled up the last lines with every thing I knew that I still punished myself for that stretched as far back as twenty years time I finally put my pen down.
I felt exhausted, spent.
My husband and friends were gathered in late night darkness.  The firepit snapped and popped against the chill of night. 
Someone offered a prayer of blessing and help as we were all standing in agreement that we were making a stand to forgive anyone on our lists. I think God honors tangible moments like this.  Ones where the desire of our hearts expresses itself in a physical sign.  Like the burning of grudge lists or the building of an altar.  God sees we are serious.  He meets us there.  One by one we tossed our list in (or my almost novella).  My husband was last.  I saw the struggle play at the corner of his mouth as he held one last time to the list before he let go of the list and we all sat back in silence watching the flames annihilate the grudges of the past.

The moment spoke volumes to me and all of us. We couldn't go back to the fire and retrieve the ashes.
There were two things that really stood out to me in different messages and words I read about forgiveness.
One was this: those who hurt you never realize how much they have cost you. They will never know.
That truth reminded me of the words Jesus agonizingly breathed out while being crucified.
"Father forgive them for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34). 
We know that what we are doing is wrong, but our hearts deceive us into knowing how wrong it is.  The full weight of our sin.  We are blinded to it's costliness.
Secondly: We must absorb the debt others owe us and consider it canceled.  They can't repay us. 
No one can repay you for hurt they've inflicted.  It's impossible.  Just like people on my list would never be able to undo damage done with words, I could never undo the damage I had done. I was completely sorrowful for it, but I could never undo it. 
The Psalms mirror this theme, "Lord, if you kept a record of sins, who O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you...hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is unfailing love and an overflowing supply of salvation.  He himself will free Israel from every kind of sin." (Psalm 130). 
That is what Jesus has done.  He absorbed and became the very debt we owed, taking the wrath that we could never survive and handing us in return forgiveness and new life. 

If you are grappling with grudges or are in need of forgiveness yourself take time to listen to that sermon I found.  It's life changing.
Lastly, if you now need forgiveness let that this time be a springboard for you to now forgive.  You know now what it is like to need forgiveness.  Now you can forgive.  Forgive anyone you have kept chained up in the past with the weight of their offenses.  Release them.







Thursday, February 9, 2017

Special Birthday


Three weeks ago marked nine years of Meredith.  Whenever January 21st rolls around memories flood.  

She’s the baby I always marvel over has reached another year.  That we made it another three hundred sixty five days. That now nine years stretch out between the days before I was a mom, when I was still twenty-two and not responsible for much.  
Meredith has always been a grace to me. Her middle names fits. She still is.  When I think about succumbing to despair I start to think about her gray green eyes looking for mine.  The way  she still curls up in my lap and reaches for my hands.  Her long slender fingers threading through mine.  I think about her when I think about giving up. I think about the way she looks at me and the tender heart that hides under her nonchalant attitude.
Meredith experienced much growth this year.  She gained confidence which is no small feat considering her normal shyness.  She started to excel in reading thanks to her new tutor that is imbibing her with belief in herself.  I find her reading on her own now in the dimness of an almost darkened room.  Last night she finished another book and it was quite lengthy.  She’s shown me this year that what she most needed was someone to believe in her and then tell her over and over that they do.  Someone had to believer in her before she could believe in her.  That’s what Meredith’s new tutor has done for her.  She’s called for self belief in Meredith and Meredith has blossomed under the weight of her encouragement.  She has given her courage by encouragement.  She’s helped heal Meredith.  
Meredith’s legs have stretched out long and we keep having to find longer pants. She is starting to look like a preteen.  The other day I noticed sports bra straps peeking out of her shirt and she quietly nodded at my question.  She is interested in different things and our conversations find us discussing different topics. Her requests for birthday presents included electronics and clothes and temporary hair color.   Not toys.  She wears her knock off ‘beats’ around her neck.  Music or not.  Just because they match her DC shoes ☺
As we drove home the other day before her birthday I brought up her upcoming birthday. I was meaning to fill the moment with sentiment about our soon to be nine year old, but she cut me off. “Mom, I’m halfway to eighteen.”  She jolted me into reality quickly with those words.  “I know” I glanced back at her in the rearview.  I’ve always been someone who starts to mourn the halfway of a thing.  I know it sounds weird, but I always notice the halfway point of something and ponder all the ways it’s half way over.
I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the deeply blue eyes of baby Meredith and the hour we used to spend every night just she and I reading all her books over and over. I pictured baby Meredith’s quiet and gentle demeanor as she shadowed me around our small apartment as I did household chores and she pretended to dust and vacuum with me.  I remembered my days off from work when I abandoned all I needed to get done deciding to scoop Meredith up in my arms and hold her close during her nap time. Her golden hair curling damp against my chest.  

I remembered the other day how significant every milestone she made had seemed because she was the first baby and grand baby on both family sides.  How every moment was documented in scrap books and shared with grandmas.  I remember the sacred awe filled moments that encapsulated her first two years with us.  Before we added any more kids.  
I pictured the way jealousy bubbled out of her tiny two year old frame as I caught her kicking her newborn sister weeks after bringing her home.  

My mind flashed back to watching her bright blond hair glint gold in the Tennessee sun as she sat perched upon a rock wall laughing at all of us in delight. 

I saw her standing at our front door one bleak November afternoon watching the squirrels play lost in deep thought.  She came to me and said simply, “I’ve decided to ask Jesus to come in to my heart.”  I remember that evening with joy watching my husband explain everything to Meredith.  She nodded with clear eyes in understanding.  My mind fast forwarded to this past year when my husband got to baptize her himself.



I see her squealing as she flinches holding her fishing line as she catches her first fish.  My husband reeling in the line.  June sunshine baking her skin into a rich tan, freckles splattering even her lips. Green gray eyes smiling at first fish wonder. 

I remembered all the prayers she had prayed for people.  Like a well worn mantra repeated over and over she had asked simple blessings for friends at every meal.  Even when she was just a toddler.
My mind went back to all the afternoons we spent sun soaked with mulch cloaking our flip flopped feet swinging in the sun. We were gloriously lost in unhurried afternoon sunshine.  Enjoying simple things like cool grass and fast fluttering butterflies…together.  


My mind darkened briefly with all the ways I have failed her and all the things I would do differently.  All the ways I hope she isn’t like me. But as I looked into her eyes in the rearview I knew grace.  I’ve always thought of Meredith as a tangible picture of grace.  A life gifted to us.  One that we get to know, learn from and mostly get to cherish.  One I could never have dreamed up, but that I get to dream with.
I don’t want to think about her childhood half over, I want to think about all the ways it’s been  full. 

Happy Nine Meredith ☺




Friday, January 13, 2017

Middle - Five Minute Fridays

After reading the word middle I thought of my dinner last night.  It was filled with middle goodness.
My sister made me a simple, but decadent sandwich.
Toast wearing so much golden butter served as the envelope carrying a sweet savory middle: brie cheese and freshly made blackberry jam.
When I first sunk my teeth past the warm toast, sweet, but tart blackberries and creamy brie cheese surprised me. They suited each other well.  The sandwich was very rich so it was a bit hard to finish, but very satisfying too.
The goodness was the middle.
Later we sliced into miniature molten lava cakes and more flavors flowed straight from the middle.
We couldn't eat much savoring a couple of rich bites.  I chose my bites from the middle.  The middle where the chocolate soaks the cake.  The best part.
Most of life seems to be found in the middle.
Like the toast that brackets or holds the sandwich's contents, major life events or victories don't make up most of our days.  Our days are made mostly in the middle. 
It's usually what we make of the middle moments, the middle of a day, the middle of all that is mundane that makes us and makes a life sweet and gives it's best content.
Do I take time to taste the middle moments, really?
Pause and lean into them?
Learn from them?
Open them?

Sometimes....

Like...
Pausing yesterday, putting down the stack of mail and bills. I feel baby boy's arms lightly twist around my legs and his head lean against my knee. His touch, barely there yet deeply there all at the same time. 
He quietly toddled off, but I lowered myself onto the kitchen floor and say, "Baby Mac, please come back."  His gray green eyes glisten happy as he walked back and drops gently on my lap. 
Middle moments.

My dad's eyebrows arched up as he related an interesting historical story.  He's always been filled with lots of knowledge about lots of things. Especially history and numbers. This time I really listened to the story.  I left the house with the story rolling over in my mind.  Amazed by it. 
Middle Moments.

This morning I padded up wood floors.  Everyone was ready, and it was  time to get my husband up.  He likes to sleep til he absolutely has to get up and gets ready within fifteen minutes.
He needed to get up now...
I usually go and tap him and tell him, "You must get up if you don't want to be late."
I pause in the room, daylight barely opening it's eyes over the earth.  I can't see well, but I decide to slide in the warm sheets and find myself right in the middle.  The middle of his arms.
For just a couple moments I rest my head on his shoulder and stop rushing. I don't say, "You must get up." Instead we pray.

Life isn't made up in what we do every once in a while, or the place we arrive.  Of course that's part of it.  But the meat of life is made somewhere in the every day, minute by minutes. Tucked into all the middle of our moments. 

My baby boy in the middle of sister love


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