15 January 2010

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl

Dearest Mirren,

You're here. Your dad and I keep looking at each other and saying, "We have a baby," like this is somehow still unexpected, even after anticipating you for the last 9 months. It's just that you're so much more than we'd asked or imagined that we can't quite believe you're what was waiting for us inside my tummy.

People keep asking us about your name, little one, and I want to tell you what it means to us so I don't forget it and so you know what to tell the people who ask you about it someday. The truth is, I saw "Mirren" online and knew almost immediately that it belonged to you. It took daddy a little longer to come around, but one day when I asked him what he'd been thinking about names he just looked up and said, "I like Mirren," and that was about it. We had other names, in case you came out looking more like a Madeline or a Sophia, but I don't think there was actually much chance of that. Maybe God gave you this name, for your sojourn here on earth.

Your name means so much, on several different levels. Mirren (MEER-ren) is a Scottish form of Mary, I assume via some of the same linguistic routes as Miriam and Marian. There are lots of ways to spell it that are more Celtic (like Muiren, which is, I believe, the way they spelled Maid Marian's name in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves), but we wanted to give you the best chance of having people pronounce it correctly on the first try. We figured we could give you an unusual name as long as you didn't have to tell every single soul you met how to say it ;)

Anyway, both your Dad and I like Celtic things. He's of Irish heritage and I have some Scotch blood, and loved Scotland both times I visited it. Somehow, it seemed right to give you a Scottish name.

In addition to all of that, Miren (with one "R") is also a girl's name in Euskera (the Basque language). While we didn't choose that spelling, it seems appropriate given the fact that I once spent 4 weeks in Pais Vasco (Basque Country) and have a deep love for the culture, people, and language of the place. It was my first overseas experience and meant so much.

As far as meanings go, Mirren carries the same traditional meaning as Mary, which is "bitter." However, further research revealed that the name is also associated with being one who is loved, or beloved.

There's something about that juxtaposition that seems so right for life on this earth. Things will be bitter, and I know I can't keep you from experiencing that along the way. But no matter what happens, you will always be loved, and I hope you can remember that when you get a bad life-taste in your mouth. Because it's the love that matters in the end, and not so much the things that happen along the way.

Your middle name has raised some questions, too. Clarys (CLAIR-iss, rhymes with Harris) was your maternal great-grandma's name, and between her being a special woman and the name being too unique to lose, I wanted to give it to you. I would have considered it as a first name, but it reminds your dad of Clarice from Silence of the Lambs and neither of us wanted you associated with that.

I don't know what the name means, unfortunately. Apparently, there's a story about where it came from but no one quite remembers it. It's what it means to me that's most important, though. My grandma was a strong woman who lived a hard life in a hard place and still made something beautiful of it. Someday I'll take you to those wild, rolling South Dakota plains and show you where she came from, and I think you'll understand. I'll show you her grave, clustered with others (most of them your relatives) in a small, well-kept plot in the middle of a wheat-grass field. When you watch how the wind hits the tall sentinel pines that do their best to protect the cemetery, I think you'll see the sort of place where she made her life and made it work, even when it was hard.

That's what I want to give you, baby girl. That strength, that stands tall in the face of the things life offers and bends but doesn't break. My grandma had that strength and I hope my daughter does, too.

Little girl, you're our treasure. We talked about you as our little gift, the entire time you were inside, and you certainly are that. There's so much more to say, so many more thoughts and hopes and blessings I could give you, but I don't have the words right now and, besides, I think everyone is concerned as it is that I've been sitting on the couch crying for the last 20 minutes. I can't help myself. You're so very, very special to both your daddy and I and we love you so much.

Welcome to the world, baby girl. I hope you learn to treasure love and laughter and God and family and friends and that you have some sense, even now, of just how much you are loved.

More later, little darling, I'm sure of it. Meanwhile, sleep well.

05 January 2010


There's room to breathe, here in this place. Like the turtle I once loved, I feel myself stretching my head out, looking around to see what things look like. Maybe now there will be time to reflect, ask, ponder, answer.

I'm moving in, inhabiting this place. It's a place my heart knows so well. Home.

My body also knows this place. Breath by breath, beat by beat, I come to rest in the quiet.

There's space for me, here.

It won't last. Slowness like this almost never does.

In our crazy world, getting to move slowly is a luxury and, like most luxuries, comes in seasons. This particular season will be ended by the squalling arrival of the little one, one who already interrupts and whose interruptions are usually welcome. Since I can't exactly stuff her back inside once she's out (and wouldn't ever choose to!) I'll emerge from my slowness to do what needs to be done.

That doesn't mean that the slow place isn't home, though it's more like Home-That-Will-Be instead of Home-That-Once-Was. I'm not sure this world could sustain itself at the pace I would choose to live, but I'm almost positive heaven can.

All the same, it's good to be slow for a time, even here. It's good to accept the season, moving in harmony with it, not trying to disarm it prematurely.


01 January 2010

Rejoice . . . always?

Several weeks ago, I started thinking about my year of "enough." It was a strange thing for God to give me that word, because I'd searched for his heart in similar ways before and not heard anything. But I embraced what I heard and walked through my year with it by my side.

As it turns out, I'm not sure if "enough" was something for me to focus on or just a heads-up about where I was going. Sure, I meditated on the concept and it functioned as a touchstone for me over the year, particularly during the first 6 or 8 months. But it wasn't something I did. It wasn't something I strove for. Hearing "enough" at the end of 2008 was almost like a prophecy, or sign post saying, "Just so you know, this is where you're going."

In light of that, I was surprised to hear another word for the next year.

"Rejoice," I heard, almost before I'd gotten the question out of my mouth.

My response was somewhat less than I would have desired. "Really? Are you sure?"

Turns out, God was sure.

My response was somewhat stronger several days later when we heard about Dave's job. "Clearly, that rejoicing thing is out the window," I said.

I don't think God said anything, but I had the distinct impression that he cocked his head slightly and looked at me with raised brows.

"You've got to be kidding," I said. "I think I might be lucky to survive next year, let alone find joy."

Since his expression didn't change, I could only assume that he was not, in fact, kidding.

And so today I embark on a year of rejoicing. I'm not sure what that means, though I'm fairly sure it has very little to do with feeling comfortable and happy. More like finding the winged horses that come to rescue those who can't help but jump off the cliff, hoping against hope that their distinct impressions of "something out there" are real, and will become solid before the ground does.