Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It's just a blink. I swear.

Please excuse the double dose of maudlin, but I just dropped my baby off for his very last day of preschool.

I was sucker punched. I didn't see it coming.

Because I didn't see it coming, I might be forgiven for also not realizing just what happens when you allow yourself to look back for a picture of your youngest to post on your blog about sending him to his last day of preschool...

You find this picture:

And when you find THIS picture, isn't it possible that you might not quite imagine the hand that reaches into your chest and twists your heart, pulls it, and squeezes it until you almost can't breathe?

Look at those little faces. Look at the promise in those eyes, the potential. The futures ahead. Here they all are, my four precious precious gifts, and I have to ask myself, what have I done with them? How many many times have I fallen short? How many many times have I forgotten to see them for the glorious spirits they are?


It's enough to send me to my knees, I tell you.

And really, is there anywhere else to go?

I take a glance back and wonder how I can be forgiven for failing them over and over, for not giving them enough structure, for not providing them enough magic, for getting caught in the mess of life and not rising above it.

I take a glance forward and fear that I'll still fail them over and over, that my best intentions will never be met, or my second-best intentions, or my mediocre intentions, to be quite honest. These glorious could I have been entrusted with them?

On my knees, I beg for grace to make up where I lack. I beg. And beg. And beg. Because isn't that the only way to wholeness? To allow grace to fill in the gap? The gaping, yawning, immense gap between the mother I wish I were and the mother I really am?

Job's wife looked back with regret and turned into a pillar of salt. If I look back with regret, I may well be paralyzed as well. Fear paralyzes, doesn't it? Isn't that a lesson I've learned over and over? Fear that I won't be enough, fear that more loss is ahead, fear that I can't do what is needful... The more I dwell on these things, the less likely I am to take one step and one more step and one more. To read another book at bedtime, to plan a trip to the zoo, to lay under the stars on the trampoline, to snowshoe through sparkling white, or to speak of eternal things while walking in fall leaves.

The only way through is grace.

Well, and gratitude. That helps, too.

I leave an era of little people behind today, an era of grasping hands, of baby food, diapers, learning ABC's, of literally climbing up and down my body, Little People, lisping voices, putting on Daddy's shoes, teething, singing nursery rhymes, eating rocks, eyes big with wonder at new discoveries, sleeping with crowns on their heads, uneven steps, princesses, superheroes, and the infallible belief that I know everything, that I can make everything better.

They now know that I'm fallible. It's hard. But being fallible doesn't mean I've failed them. They have love in abundance. They have clothes and food and books and toys and work and a roof over their heads. They have smiles that light up rooms. They are learning...maybe not as fast or as well or as perfectly as I imagined when they first laid that little Josh in my arms, but they are learning.

The world awaits them. They'll learn the same thing I'm learning now, that despite its imperfections, it is full of glories and wonders and beauties. They'll learn that they'll fall short, that they'll fall down. I'll cross my fingers that they'll lift themselves up and keep trying, keep going, keep looking for things to make it worth being here in this beautiful, treacherous, amazing world. And maybe one day they will (God willing) drop off their littlest at preschool and maybe they'll wonder the same thing...

How did it happen so fast?

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Ben turned five in April (sigh.) and has entered that most darling boy stage: The Lego Stage.

It helps that at Christmas, Josh and the girls jumped back aboard the Lego Train and spent days and days sorting and building Lego creations. How could any nearly 5-year-old boy resist that kind of temptation?

For his birthday, he wanted many Legos. One morning just after his birthday, he decided to put together his new truck. And I watched him change from a little boy to a big boy. Snap. Just like that.

We started with him asking me what step came next. I showed him in the instruction booklet and he'd follow. Within a couple of steps, he decided he didn't need me and sent me back to my piano. He leaned over the book carefully, sticking his tongue out in concentration, and looked at all his pieces, finding just the right ones. If he got stuck, he'd ask for my help, but the minute I came over, found the problem and pointed it out, he'd say, "OK OK OK. I can do it. I can do it," dismissing me again.

I was a few feet away, kind of practicing, but mostly watching my baby grow up. I'd play a few scales, watch him put the wheels on, work on a right hand Mozart passage, watch him find the windshield. And all along, he was growing up.

They do that to you, you know.

They grow. They change. They learn. They master.

Eventually they leave us behind. They say, "OK OK OK. I can do it. I can do it."

And that's how it's supposed to be.

I'm sure you can't blame me, though, for feeling like while there might be instructions for Lego creating, there aren't enough instructions for mothering little Bens (or Kates, or Sophies, or Joshes) who turn into big Bens overnight, leaving me breathless, a little tearful, but with a full full FULL heart.

(Whose heart wouldn't be full, seeing this boy and this truck? He's mine, for now, and he still needs me for many things beyond Lego creating. And I'm so so so grateful for that.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Everything Beautiful in HIS Time

Today as I was doing my morning scripture study, I came across this gorgeous verse:
Ecclesiastes 3:11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
It reminded me of an experience I had almost two years ago, just a couple of months after Brent's death. I was in my old neighborhood to play for a friend's funeral (remember that summer? That summer so full of loss? It still kind of blows my mind to think of it) and when I got in my car afterwards, I saw that I had a little bit of time before I had to be home. I felt a gentle nudge to see a friend I hadn't seen since the move, so I drove over to her house to meet her new baby.

As we visited, she shared with me that she had lost a brother in his twenties. We cried a little together, appreciated seeing each other and had a nice time just being together. As I was heading to the door to leave she said, "I need to apologize to you."

Of course, I couldn't imagine that she really did, but she proceeded to tell me that a couple of years previously, she had had a series of dreams about me. In her dreams, I kept telling her, "I would really love for you to make me dinner." (Honestly, what an obnoxious dream me! The nerve...) She said she would wake up and wonder what on earth these dreams were about. She thought about calling me to ask if there was something she could do for me, but was a little embarrassed and didn't want to bother me. As far as she could tell, everything was going just fine in my life.

It was months and months later that she learned that our family had been at that very time enduring a truly terrible ordeal. She felt guilty that she hadn't listened to the promptings in her dreams. She had thought about it ever since but had not ever shared the experience with me.

Here's what is so fantastic...when she told me this story, I was totally overwhelmed. The recounting of her experience at that time in my journey of grief told me something I needed more than I had needed a meal back in those rough times: it told me that God is mindful of me, in ALL of my extremities, enough so that he had sent dreams to my friends to ask them to watch out for me at some of the lowest times I'd ever imagined. And He had given her the chance to share this experience with me at the very moment I needed it most...NOT those years before, but at THAT time, years later. He made the experience beautiful in HIS time.

I have had many times that I have had good intentions to serve someone in some way, but something has stopped me from following through. (Sometimes, of course, this is NOT God's work, but my own failings.) At times, I've felt something blocking me until much later, a stupor of thought and action. When the way opens, and I finally follow through, I see His timing in its beautiful perfection. I don't think I've ever seen it in quite so elegant a presentation as this visit with my friend. His work is planned from beginning to end. While we're in the middle of it, it's hard to see OR accept the design. But it's there. And it's beautiful.

(And I think this ends my long-winded philosophical posts for a little while...I've got some family catch-up posts to write and pictures to post!)

Friday, May 4, 2012

after the flood, all the colors came out

This morning, my running partner had a massive headache, so I up and ran all by my lonesome at 5:45.

5:45 is very early, dontcha know?

It's not so early anymore that there is no light, and that makes running much more pleasant, as does running the Shoreline Trail. I miss it so much when it's wet and soggy. I went a few months without setting foot on the trail, but I seem not to be able to miss a week (or even a few days if I have my choice) anymore.

There's a short and narrow path about a mile from the trailhead, up a fairly steep incline, that leads to an overlook. I've been stopping there lately, breathing deeply, taking in the valley below me: the refineries and gravel pits (uhhgly), the train tracks and airport (interesting) and the trees, mountains, clouds, and lake (gorgeous.) I think about the mass of humanity waking under my feet, the worries, joys, sufferings, and delights experienced by each soul in the reach of my glance. It's a perspective I cherish. It reminds me that as enormous as the pains we suffer can be, when seen from a distance they seem manageable. Hard, yes, but manageable.

There have been some giant rifts in our family in the last year: rifts so vast that my perspective couldn't grasp how we would ever bridge them, how they could ever be manageable. The damage hammered me to the ground, as fragile as I already was from so many other losses. I wept bitterly, I questioned, I yelled and screamed and wept some more. I'm ashamed to admit that I allowed the bitterness to seep into my bones, that I allowed my mind to sit, to dwell, to scratch at the wounds.

In the middle of the torment, I ended up asking for help from a few different sources. I had friends who allowed me to use them as sounding boards. I went to the temple. And finally I ended up getting some help from a psychologist. These were all helpful in their own way, and I found myself managing daily life pretty well, even though daily life was pretty much lacking the shine and glow of days past.

But here's the miracle. After the flood, the miserable, horrible, happiness-quenching flood, beginning maybe all the way back at the move, maybe even further back than that, all the colors are coming out. And they're something else, let me tell you.

How has it happened for me? Quite honestly, through grace. But the grace I've accessed is in DIRECT correlation to my search for gratitude. The more grateful I am, the more I'm finding to be grateful for. And the more I'm grateful for, the more gorgeous this life is turning out to be.

I ran on this morning after hitting the lookout, back down the trail, through the neighborhood and hills that have become part of me. I put on my iPod, hit random, and ran. And ran. And ran.

And reveled in the colors. In the clouds. In the light. In the peace.

Because here's the miracle. AFTER I found the joy in life all on my own, AFTER I lost my bitterness, AFTER I turned my feelings over to God, AFTER...

the bridges started to be built.

And not slowly, either. Like Amazing Home (or Bridge) Makeover fast.

God is good. He can lift us up to places to overlook our lives, to see the uhhgly with the gorgeous, and to be grateful for all of it. And even if the bridges are never built (but I tell you, they ARE being built!), the truest miracle is our strengthened, thankful hearts.

Philippians 4:6-7 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Pact: or why good friends make the world go round

The boys and their guitars
I have to tell you about our Pact, because it's so much fun and you seriously might just have to make one, too (with me, maybe?).

We've made some wonderful friends in the last year. (I love my friends. Really. What would I do without you? Really.) It's been fantastic to stretch our hearts to include so many more people to love. I already felt spoiled rotten to care about as many people as I do, and to have even more people to cherish? It's a joy, I tell you.

Two of these new friends are Natalie and Aaron, and we just adore them. After commiserating about how hard it is to be motivated to practice or be healthy or whatever else we're feeling non-motivated about, Aaron had the bright idea to make a pact. So we did. We each chose what to include in our individual contracts, then met for lunch and to exchange checks.

Here's how it works:

Each of us has different elements to our contracts (practicing, exercising, whatever).
We decided on a time frame (until Memorial Day weekend).
We wrote 3 checks to each of the other participants (a total of $20 per round for this time).
Aaron made a Google spreadsheet for us to record our progress.
Every time we slip, we let the others know that they can cash the first (or maybe the second, or hopefully not the third) checks.

Boom. Instant motivation.

My contract?

Practice 10 hours a week
Run a minimum of 12 miles a week
At least 2 days of strength training
Spend 15 minutes on finances every day
Keep a food journal and stay under the calorie limit 5 days a week
(My secret part...scripture study every day...I didn't include that, but I'm holding myself accountable.)

We're two weeks into it. How's it working?

Well, the first Saturday, I finished my practicing at 3:25 am. Ummmm...not so fun. In fact, pretty dang miserable.

I was sure I'd do better last week.

So Saturday night at 11:30 pm, I still had 2 1/2 hours of practicing to do, and I was falling asleep sightreading, so I called uncle and told everyone to cash my first checks.

Turned out it was OK, since everyone else has failed once, too.

I've been running better (15.5 miles last week) and practicing WAY better (memorized 2 pieces already) and eating WAY WAY better (lost 5 pounds.)

The best part? Everyone's invested in each other. I sent out a whiny text today about losing motivation and not wanting to practice and my arm hurting and got support and kindness and a kick in the rear.

I think I'll have to re-start another pact after Memorial Day if it continues to go this well. Anyone want to join me?