The Hours and the Miles

We’re in a season of miles

that stretch across our hearts.

Pulling us together

across the wide, wide sky.

 

And we’re in a season of hours

that don’t want to end.

Some would take a break,

we’ve got to take the work.

 

You’ve been gone so long.

I know you’re tired of the flights

and the calls.

The job keeps you up way too late.

Day turns to night and it starts all again.

The haul never gets any shorter.

Work you love, void without me.

 

And I’ve been home so long.

I’m tired of their fights

and these walls

This job gets me up way too soon.

Night turns to day and they need me again.

The trenches and frontline of motherhood.

A 24/7 shift, for weeks without you.

 

I can’t talk right now. And you’ll be asleep by my tomorrow.

How do two stay one when the sun on my face

has already passed over you?

 

I know this is how it goes.

And I know it’s what we chose.

I know there will be a day

we sit at the beach and watch the waves

play at their toes.

But today is not that day, and you are far from home.

And I am here, alone.

 

But these miles we walk aren’t in vain.

The time you spend away

will come back to us one day.

And I am here with them.

Investing my every breath so they will grow up

and do the same.

 

But these miles are vast and these hours are long.

And tonight the lump in my throat won’t leave me alone.

 

So call me when you get to where you’re going.

Maybe we can talk a little while.

Or at least until the baby cries.

Or we both cave to the lull of needed sleep.

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Shoes

Clumsily she struts around in my shoes, a pair of black high heels that I rarely ware, dug out of the back of my closet. Her smile is wide as she announces that the fashion show has begun. Dragging her feet through the carpet to the mirror, she admires her look, then falls, laughing as she makes her way back to the closet for another pair.

This behavior–playing fashion show–is new to us. I have vivid memories of doing the same thing as a little girl, but her older brother never played games like this. And so watching her fascination with my shoes is fascinating to me.

They are far too big for her little growing feet. Not to mention uncomfortable and hard to walk in. They don’t fit her yet, and if I expected her to wear them, she would surely fall and injure herself. The time for filling shoes like this has not come for her.

She loves to play with them though. There is something about pretending to be grown up that draws her back each time, trying out a new pair. Seeing how she looks; how she feels.

Curiously she has never put on her Dad’s shoes. Though we share a closet, our shoes lined up neatly next to each other’s, she always plays with mine.

As she plays I begin to notice how much she is watching me. She is not pretending to be a grown-up; she’s pretending to be me.

An image of me–not an exact replica–but in her own mind, I am the closest thing to a grown up girl she will ever experience until she becomes one herself. I am her definition of a woman. I am the mirror she looks to to glimpse her future. How funny that she has taught me so much about being a mother and yet I am the very person she will learn to be a mother from.

The weight of it all hit me while she pranced around in my shoes. My beautiful girl. My precious daughter. I have the power to raise her to amazing heights as a daughter of the King, and also the power to damage her perceptions of real womanhood beyond recognition. It is a weighty, exhilarating, and scary moment when you realize all your daughter wants is to grow up to be you.

That day is not far off. One day she will no longer be a child, and I can only I hope she sees herself as I see her now. Fearless, mighty, brave, tender, observant, creative, curious, and above all else craving the deepest affection and the most outlandish love. I know that I will let her down, as all mothers do. And when I do I hope and pray with all my heart that she will run to the One who will never let her go, who can tend her heart in ways no human ever can.

Yes, I know I will let her down. But oh how I never want to.

Of Games and Cinderblock

White washed cinderblock walls climb three stories up. Hanging above us a green glow hovers from the fluorescent light, static and artificial. Nothing good ever came from a tube suspended in mid air. A shiny gym floor squeaks with the sound of rubber soles running back and forth across the boards.

It’s all so drab. So lackluster. So manmade. And yet we are lucky to have this place. In a land where the alternative is a harsh, wintry environment six months out of the year, a big warm room to let them run is nothing to take for granted. But today the room itself has this longing filling the air. Everything from the lighting, to the walls, to the shoes made across the Pacific Ocean seem cold and imperfect. It’s all this feeble attempt to make something nice from this crude world. Something to soften its blow. And it’s excentuated by the only good thing in it: the boys.

My son races around the gym, weaving and dodging, trying to outrun his friend who is chasing him in a friendly game of tag. He is six–almost seven–and his friend just a bit older. Watching two school-aged boys play tag is really a site to behold. Incredible, actually.

Their legs pump up and down, blood flowing swiftly to the long fibers that connect their muscles together and animate their movements. Their chests expand, heaving and broadening, a miniature image of how they will look in just a few short years. They are agile, quick, and full of life. Breath. But perhaps most beautiful is the smile on their winded faces. They know no limits, no care. Their world is complete for a moment because they are doing everything they were made to do. Running from one place to another, they look as if any moment they will just lift off the ground and go chase each other around the moon. For a fraction in time there is no limit to their world; nothing holding them back from everything they are suppose to be. In here, in this cold, manmade cage, it is so plain to me how captive they are.

This may be the only world they know, but it is starkly obvious to me that this is not their home.

Later, I watch my princess gallop around the room. She dodges the furniture, giving a whinny here and a neigh there, as she rounds the corner by the dining room table. It’s a daily occurnace, her pretending to be a horse. We indulge her terribly, playing along and calling her “Sparkling Lights,” her splendid pony name. I’ll often feed her carrots by hand, or pretend to brush her sleek coat. I wrap scarves around her middle, a make-shift saddle to add to her delight. After all, how many years of your life do you really get away with fully believing you are such a majestic creature? She prances by, toffee hair floating behind her like a beautiful sun-kissed mane. “Good girl. Easy girl. You’re a beautiful horse, Sparkling Lights,” I soothe. That night I tuck her into her little bed and sing a song of horses running free, and tell her to dream of the day He comes back, riding on His white horse, ready for her to go riding with Him. Her eyes glass over and she says she can’t wait.

And for the second time that day, I see again how inadequate this place is and how exiled we are.

These precious stones of mine are brilliant. They are shining beacons in a world of bitterness, injustice, and cruelty. And for now–thankfully–they do not know much of those things. And until that day comes, they are my evidence of hope. They remind me how someday the Restoration will come, and our home will be a paradise. Our bodies will not break down, never decompose. Our joy will be complete, perfected in being everything we want to be. In everything we are made to be: completely and uniquely human. Royalty. Sons and daughters of the King, reigning and ruling in our real home.

All is Fair in [human] Love and War

It happened in a school. A school not unlike the one just a few miles up the street from me; a place where children are suppose to be safe and learn something that will benefit our world. But the wide-eyed, bright futures are sitting ducks, and their young lives are gone at the sound of a gunshot.

Their killer was little more than a child himself. Armed with a weapon of mass destruction, he took life to avenge his own. And while these kids sit together in their classrooms, somehow someone ends up lost or abused. Damaged, forgotten, bullied. How ironic that the system we cry out to protect from assassins with a gun is the very system that raised the assassin.

The weapon is no doubt a part of the problem; a cog in the great wheel of violence. While it might take a good dose of humility for those who appreciate their civil right to bear arms to admit, it does not take a genius to see this. But if we take away the big guns, do mass shootings decline? Should we reform the laws surrounding access to these weapons? Or do we arm teachers and increase school security? What laws are good? Which ones are bad? Is it the person or the weapon that executed the evil? And is it evil if the perpetrator is mentally ill? Who do we blame for the tragedy? Who is the scapegoat? Who is in the wrong?

Round and round we go, our words whizzing by. Our ideas of right and wrong on a sliding scale, each varying to an individual degree, ripping the other side apart word by word. Bullet by bullet. A massacre in it’s own rite.

And for those who follow Jesus, the gun is only a small part of this web of problems.

You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Matt: 5:21-23

John continues on this thought.

…He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:14-15

If Jesus condemns the man who utters an unkind word along with the mass murderer, then I am no better than he.

We all see what words can do. Cyber bullying alone has lead thousands to take their own lives. Cain even had words with his brother before murdering him, leaving him to rot, uncovered, in an open field. And so I meet a paradox; do I brush over the wound of my own tongue as less than the wounds of a gunshot? Or do I face the very teachings of the One I claim to live my life for? Do I love God and others by my own definition, or by His?

Because according to Him, if I teach my children that name calling is preferable to mass murder, I have failed them. In doing so I am only teaching them to define good and evil for themselves, just like Cain. I cannot have it both ways; I cannot pledge my allegiance and life to the Creator of the world who died on my behalf and then choose to live by my own rules. I am first a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, and those values are not of this world.

As well intentioned as it may be, the danger in the “Love God, Love Others” movement lies in that it has left out the very definition of love. When Jesus summarized the teachings of the Torah with the Jewish creed called the Shema in Mark 12, He was bringing clarity and simplicity to a warped theology. But in our attempts to simplify Jesus, we have warped His theology. We have reduced the essence of His mission without regard for the divine instruction He was so perfectly illustrating. He instructed that instead of defining the greatest command on our own, that we instead allow the entirety of the teachings to define love for us. Jesus knew that humans do not fair well when the terms of love are up for debate.

But yet the war rages on, us so-called Believers frantically grasping for our weapons to disarm, and in some cases provoke, the other side. Despite the teachings of our Master, we decide for ourselves what is tolerable and what is outrageous and what we just don’t care about. We hurl our words like a well-hewn spear, laughing while we strike the heart of those opposed, provoking more bloodshed in a text bubble. If only we had paused long enough to remember that the person on the other side of the screen is the very image of the God we worship. Would we be so quick to defend our rights? Would we throw the first stone?

And so I wrestle with the hypocrisy in my own life. I go back to the Torah. I go back to Matthew 5. I read and re-read. I study and pray. I meditate on the words of my mouth alongside the practice of my heart. I wait for His word to transform my mind and cut away at the lies. I learn His definitions of love and good, and pray I can somehow make them my own.

Because I am no better. I am truly no better. Jesus, have mercy on my soul.

The Greatest Love Story of All

It is the greatest love story of them all, the story of your dad and me. It’s got all the things that make love stories so magnificent. A beauty who needs to be rescued. A brave and mighty hero, who gives everything up to save her. There is even a dragon of sorts, slayed of course, in the end. Yes, this is the story of your dad and me; it’s the story of all humanity. And one day, my three precious stones, I believe it will be the story of each of you.

Love is always at the threshold. Remember that. But darkening the doorway is the adversary, waiting to prey on our vulnerabilities. Waiting to dance in our blood.

Its been a year now since the time of my greatest wound. I was badly hurt and in great pain. Actually, we both were. Through a series of events and reactions– things we chose and also didn’t see coming–your dad and I ended up in a place neither one of us ever expected. Standing on two separate sides of a great chasm, drenched in our own tears, missing each other.

I was wounded because of my weakness and he because of his strength. But the perplexing part was that we had both let it happen. How could us–the dream team, the couple so deeply in love with each other, so together–end up so divided and alone?

In my weakness I sank into depression, giving up in sheer exhaustion while your father fought on. The battle was all around us. But the problem was that he wasn’t fighting for us. He was fighting for himself. And that was the source of my pain. I couldn’t face it or fix it or fill it up with distractions. So I prayed. I prayed until I was broken. I came to hate a part of your father which had attracted me to him in the beginning: his inventiveness, his tenacity, and his insatiable desire to forge his own way.

He was entrenched. A slave to the world we had made for ourselves; it’s risks and it’s payoffs. And lately, there had been far more of the former than the later. He loved the thrill of the chase more than the pursuit of my heart. It defined every bone in his body. Our life had robbed him of his peace. His joy. His physical health. He looked to it for his self-worth and his purpose. And the more it disappointed, the deeper he fell into the snare. His dreams consumed by the flame. Our life going up in smoke.

Because in his quest to triumph, he had forgotten me. He would do it without me, and hate himself for it. So I stood, watching him wage a pointless war. With the weapons of the world at his fingertips, the only way to ease the pain of his losses was to succeed, and he was failing miserably. And I, too tired from fighting against him, could no longer fight for him. Or for myself.

So there we were, almost nine years into a marriage and almost nine months into a pregnancy. We were disconnected, hurt, lost, and so incredibly worn down. We had tried it all. We sold our home, uprooted our family, traded in for a different life. But really, we were no better off. I spent the days hiding away in deep pain, festering the wounds that your dad never meant to inflict.

And somewhere in all this madness and corruption, Grace interrupted us both. Through the broken pieces of his dashed dreams and hopeless endeavors, he remembered me.

He saw me. Tired. Damaged. Broken in half, scared, pregnant and alone, and still desperately in love with him. And I saw him, rubbed raw from the abrasion of a warped sense of identity that had devoured all his substance.

And so all that was left were two tired people trying to hold together something that had once been so very good.

In our brokenness, a miracle occurred. Your father saw the beast on our doorstep, and me, too vulnerable and too weak to fight. He realized that to gain his life and his wife back, he had to give up himself; his dream of being this person he made for himself in his mind. Holding my hand, he gave me back his heart, while gently picking up the pieces of my own. Standing there in the rubble of our marriage, with a baby so close to arriving, he wept in grief.

And then (and this is the best part) he did what all good men must do; he fought for his beloved. But he did not fight with the weapon of the world as so many might do. He didn’t try harder, push longer, or endure further. That had already failed him. Instead, he laid himself down for his bride.

Repenting and returning to his God, he humbled himself. I stood, watching this transformation. Watching this previously hardened heart melt in the hands of its Maker. I watched him give up himself and gain back his life. It wasn’t an outward act of valor. No one but me saw what was really going on. But inside, your father slayed the great dragon. And he rescued me.

It has been a year since the day of our Exodus, a day in which your Dad confronted the greatest of his fears and courageously lead this family out of the oppression that choked us in its grip. He lifted his eyes from himself, saw the plight of those he loved most, and ran to the only One who can save, with the weight of us all riding on his shoulders.

Since that time a year ago, a boy has grown in stature and spirit. A daughter has risen in strength and song. A son–a miracle–has been born. And two very broken people have been made whole. Oneness mending our family, rooted in the sacrifice and love of than man you call “Dad.”

It’s the Greatest Love Story of All. It’s His story becoming the very definition of our own.

Of Fevers and Rocking Chairs

I sit again. This rocking chair. It is not the first time I have spent all night in it. It probably won’t be the last. A little lump dozes restlessly against my arms. He is burning up, cheeks ablaze as he lays there trying to get comfortable. Holding him here my own arms ache. My neck is stiff and my shoulders are tense. He is heavy. Actually, this is heavy. This whole thing.

I gently try to lay him in his own bed only to be met with crying. Standing there alongside the chewed up rails feels familiar. How many times have I done this? Patted the back of a sad little thing in footie pajamas? Through the fleece I can feel the heat of the fever and the rapid beat of his heart. And despite my aching back and sleep-deprived eyelids, I pick up him again. We walk. We sway. We doze sitting up. We do this all night long.

Soon morning will arrive but we are still a ways from that. There is a relief in knowing that the dark is almost over. Light has a way of bringing hope, even if nothing has changed. We are both exhausted. The feeling is familiar…almost rehersed. My feet know the path to his crib, well worn through the dark hours to tend a crying baby. My arms cradle him just so with the bouncy rhythm he has known since his days as a newborn. This feeling of exhaustion is startling not because it is so real, but because it is so old. As though it’s been there since the beginning. And I realize it is the same feeling I began the whole journey with.

The labor does not stop. The contractions pass and the baby arrives. But the labor goes on. It is real work.

I find it strange that nearly seven years have elapsed since I first became a mom, and yet I still do not fully see how it had shaped me. It has made me stronger and more patient. It has certainly pulled to light selfishness I never knew I had and a level of determination unmatched by my pre-child days. But most days, I don’t really know where this is going. My days are too full of the work. Three children in three different stages with three different personalities, all needing me in different ways. Like labor I just focus on getting through it. I breathe. I pray. I deal with each moment as it comes like a wave. And like labor I know at the end there will be a beautiful person, unique and ready for the world. And I know I will love them beyond belief and forget all the work it took to get them here. It will all be worth it in the end.

So I go back to rocking my baby. Soothing his fever, pacing the halls, praying for sleep or morning to come. Either would be fine.

Reflections of a Homeschool Mom on Christmas Break

Fridays tend to be busy days. I clean the house, make a fabulous dinner, run a few loads through the washer, and tie up any loose ends with school. I like having the house all polished and spiffy for the weekend. He comes in from a long work week to a tidy home, a beautiful meal, and music in the background. It’s a wonderful way to close one week and begin the next.

But this one was of those days where the laundry was piled high and the house looked like three small tornados had whizzed through it. I should have been whipping up dinner or reorganizing the art cabinet without my helpers, or at the very minimum, scouring Amazon to find a good deal on the new math book we would need in just a few weeks.

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