30 June 2011

Lost and Found

I felt so lost after I had her. I clung to her and to Dave and I hoped that, someday, my world would stop spinning so I could find myself again.

Post-partum depression, people say, and I nod but I don't know. So much more happened than just having a baby (which is hardly a "just"). I gained and lost more than the parts that most women gain and lose when they have a baby.

In that year, I lost my safety and security, pieces of my identity, even my home. Some of it was taken, and some of it I just gave up and walked away, the effort to hold on no longer worthwhile.

And yet I wish . . . I wish I had looked into my daughter's face and felt peace and hope, not terror. I wish those baby smiles had brought joy, and not just a temporary abeyance of fear. I wish I'd loved her as well on the inside as I did on the outside.

Now I carry another little one, a tiny soul who needs a mother who knows who she is, and I still don't know. I wonder, sometimes, what I'll see when I look in this set of eyes.

I suppose that's what love is, at this stage: wondering who this child will be and how I will respond, wondering what it will be like to hold another baby, wondering what our family will look like when another little soul joins us.

It's a weird love, complete and yet entirely uncompleted, present and yet so dependent on the future. I know myself here, even though having another child means becoming lost again. We will wander for a while, I suppose, and then we will know ourselves. Stronger, because there's strength in the wandering.

21 June 2011

Making Eye Contact

I'm not good at making eye contact. I don't know why. I don't know if no one ever made it with me, or if I heard that "the eyes are the window to the soul" and decided I didn't want just anyone peering into my soul, or if it became a way to stay on the periphery, to not be noticed because then no one would hurt me.

Whatever the reason, I'm making a concerted effort to look in my daughter's eyes these days. I want to see her soul, and I want her to see mine. And I don't want her growing up without knowing how to hold someone's eyes. I don't want her to always wonder when she should look away and if she did it too soon.

Kids need eye contact. I think I read that somewhere, though I can't find the source anywhere. But they do need it, nonetheless. I don't need a scientist to tell me that (though I appreciate it when they back me up) - I know it in my soul. Soul-deep, she needs someone to look into her eyes, to see her, and to not turn away, not ever.

And so I look into her eyes when we play. Back and forth in the swing, I hold her eyes with mine and I smile. Under the sheet-tent, I soak in all the pure blueness of those eyes, and I marvel again that they stayed newborn-violet-blue all these months. From across the yard and across the room, I watch her until her eyes meet mine and she smiles.

I want to give her so much with my eyes. I want to look and look, to tell her somehow that it doesn't matter what I see there, I love her and I will always want to look in her eyes. I want her to know that she's held and loved and precious, even when she's not being good or having a tough day.

But no matter what I give her, she gives me so much more. I can't quite explain what I see there, but I think it goes something like this, "You're my mama. I know you, because you're my mama. Now I'm here and you're here and there's nothing else we need, just now."

Those eyes and their message worm their way into my soul and, where I used to have to remind myself to look into her eyes and let us both rest there, now I find myself seeking them out. We give and receive in that place, that place no one else can touch, and it forges a bond between us that's different from all the other bonds we have. It's a bond I'd have missed if I'd never thought to meet her eyes.

I can't help but wonder, when I think about those eyes and the messages we send there, what it would be like to look into Jesus' eyes. I remember a story I once heard, about a farmer who slipped into the back of the small, local, Catholic church at the end of each working day and stared at the crucifix. When the priest finally asked him what he was doing, he said, "I come in here, and I look at him and he looks back at me."

There's something to the face-to-face-ness of heaven that will heal so much, I think. In fact, sometimes I wonder if that's the moment that some people call Purgatory, the moment when we lose the stain we carry on this earth, when we finally give up all the garbage once and for all.

There's power in a gaze, a power I've avoided most of my life. And yet I think I could look Jesus in the eye, at least for part of a second, just to see what would happen. Because he is love, and I don't think I could live having passed that chance by.

20 June 2011

How to Savor Life (Even When it's Hard)

You might think that this is a shameless excuse to share some pictures of one of my very favorite people in the world and, well, you might be right. But I will say that I learn from her every day, about what makes life special, and about what we can get out of it even when things aren't going our way. 

So, without further ado, how to savor life . . . *

1. Don't be afraid to like what you like. (Yes, my daughter is giggling like a hyena over the half of bell pepper I let her gnaw on). It doesn't matter who laughs at you, or whether they take photos and post them online. What matters is that you know what you like, and that you aren't afraid to grab hold of it when you get the chance.

I know it's easy for me to forget about the everyday things that I love when life is hard, but I do that at the peril of my soul (hear me - not just of my momentary happiness, but of my soul). Even when all of life is rich and easy and full of joy, it's the little things I love that stand out and make each day special, not the big ones.

2. Try new things. After all, somebody just might be handing you a spatula of cookie dough! It might be scary and it might mean putting yourself out there in a new way, but trying new things will give you a sense of accomplishment, and just might lead you to more of those things that you love.

It's especially hard to find the energy to try something new when you feel like getting through daily life is kicking your butt. But being in a rut saps your energy, too, just in ways that you might not recognize immediately. If you find yourself hesitant to try something new, especially when you think you might like it, take some time to look into your heart and see what's going on there.

3. When you find something you love, hold on tight (it doesn't hurt to flirt with the camera a little, too). It might feel silly to expend energy on something "extra" when you're struggling to make it through each day, but persisting in those extras will help you remember why you love your life.

When I'm going through a hard spell, I find myself dropping even things that I love from my life. They take too much energy, or I don't think they'll give me enough joy to overcome the discouragement I feel, and so I just don't bother to do them. But then I find myself in a life with nothing that I love, nothing that looks like me. And so now I try to hold onto those things, to cups of tea and morning prayer and blogging, because they make life richer.

4. Embrace the mess! Life is messy; it just is. Even when things seem neat and tidy, it's just a mess waiting to happen (especially if you have a toddler!). We can hate the mess, and spend our lives fighting the inevitable, or we can embrace it as part of who we are, and find the things worth savoring in it.

When I'm struggling, I want to get rid of the mess. I want to throw it out, to make it go away, because then I feel like I'm in control of something, even if I can't control the larger circumstances that are making me unhappy. But the truth is that none of it is mine to control anyway, and my efforts to impose order will probably be interrupted by a small someone trying to impose chaos. Much better to live in the truth - that I control very little - and move on from there.

*This post feels a little "rah-rah" for me. But these are lessons I've learned, lessons I learn everyday, watching my girl live. Even when her teeth hurt and her nose is running and she's tripped and hit her head 3 times before noon, she savors the good things that come along. My heart wants to be like that, letting the bad go to the only One who can do anything about it, and wrapping my arms around the goods, big and small, the cross my path. That's what I hope for you, too.

16 June 2011

**Before I get distracted and forget to write this again, so many thanks to Kelly Sauer for the new header and for tweaking the rest of the blog to go with it. I think I'm in love.**

We try so hard to grow, and I don't want to say there's nothing to that. But I watch my girl, how most of her growth happens when we aren't looking, how every so often we look up to realize she's doing something new and we wonder how we missed it.

Sometimes, that point isn't there for us to see. It's hidden. With my daughter, sometimes I think it's hidden in her sleep. I wonder if she dreamed about climbing that ladder and going down the slide all by herself, because she couldn't do it before her nap but did it like nothing else after. And I know she gets longer and rounder when she sleeps - the longer the nap, the bigger the baby I'll have when she's done, I think. 

And that's how I grow, too, more often than not. I mull something for a while, trying to see the lesson or dig my way out, and then, suddenly, between one step and another, or between blinks when I wake up in the morning, I can see what I couldn't possibly have seen before.

All the striving is like prep work in the kitchen - it's the chopping and measuring and mixing of the human life. It's the place where we do all the hard stuff, even though the making of the final product is something that happens somewhat outside of ourselves. After all, it's the heat and the juices and everything that blend together, not our doing. The process needed us, but it didn't happen because of us.

The more I think about it, the more I think that's a very important distinction. 

Our actions are essential to making dinner happen. I know that, because there have been days when I've hoped and hoped that it would happen without me. Usually, those are the days where we order pizza. But dinner needs more than me - it needs light and water and food for animals and heat and spice and history and that unknowable something that makes it all come together.

Growing in God is like that, I think. We have to be there. We have to play our parts, to see our growing edges, name them, and explore them. But we also have to let God work. He is the other, and without him, nothing has grown that has grown. And because of His part in it all, most of the time our growth will happen when we aren't expecting it, when we aren't praying or singing or even thinking about anything in particular. It will come to us, and we will be changed. 

01 June 2011

Today I Believe

It's one day at a time around here right now. We're waiting on paperwork from the state on at least two different fronts, and they say the envelopes should arrive and yet they don't. I call and call and I might as well be talking to the wall, as effective as I am. My husband can't work in his new field without some of this paperwork, and so we're in a holding pattern. Again.

Lord, you have always given bread for the coming day,
And though I am poor, today I believe.

I'm tired. Pregnancy does that, and allergies and waking up and not being able to go back to sleep. I stare at the ceiling, wondering if it's better for the baby if I take the medicine or if I don't get the rest that I need. I imagine horrible things in those dark hours, tragedy and loss and things getting worse for us and not better. And when I do sleep I dream, strange sagas that don't seem much better than lying awake. 

Lord, you have always given strength for the coming day,
And though I am weak, today I believe.

Sometimes, it's hard for me to see any life for us but this one, this constant treading water, taking several steps forward only to take other ones back and find ourselves at the starting point once again. I trust, I grip God's hands when they're offered and pray, "Please, please, please," even when I don't know if it goes beyond the walls of my room.

Lord, you have always given peace for the coming day,
And though of anxious heart, today I believe.

I forget that we're fighting an enemy, that this life is a battle and every day, even the good ones, are days when we should be ready for attack. I forget, and I get weary, for carrying a sword is hard work. It looks glamorous on TV, I suppose, but the reality, this redeeming and transforming every moment that we're called to do, is a much more serious, mundane task than it appears. 

Lord, you have always kept me safe in trials,
And now, tried as I am, today I believe.

This world is not my home. I know that now, in ways that I didn't know it before. It's not my home, and I don't want it to be. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't see the beauty, shouldn't love the stolen moments when my girlie smiles her toothy grin and he takes my hand across the table and we watch her, overcome with joy even though there's no good reason. 

Lord, you have always marked the road for the coming day,
And though the way is hidden, today I believe.

And so I hope, not that it will be easy, but that we will learn to see beauty where we stand, wherever we stand. If I give my children nothing else, I want them to know that circumstances are just that: circumstances. They're not to be ignored or brushed over, but accepted and grieved and lived in and made meaningful, but they're not the end. Never, ever the end. 

Lord, you have always lightened this darkness of mine,
And though the night is here, today I believe.

We can only embrace and transform our lives and our circumstances when we see them as part of the whole, when we remember how temporary and transitory they are. They form us, if we'll let ourselves be formed by them, but the end of the story is always the same. Joy. 

Lord, you have always spoken when time was ripe,
And though you be silent now, today I believe.*

* The prayer is from Celtic Daily Prayer, the prayer book of the Northumbria Community.