Momentary Miracles

Yesterday, my little girl and I took advantange of the beautiful day and took a nice, long walk. We have been cooped up in the house by the weather and the last week of school, and we needed some fresh air desperately. So we pulled on our sneakers, got out her bike, and my little girl and I took 35 minutes to walk/bike almost the entire length of the main road through our little town.

My daughter and I are very different personalities, you may have noticed if you have been reading here for a while, but that walk and then sitting down together with ice cream afterward were very nice. For a little while, our personalities didn’t rub each other wrongly. I was patient and she was attentive. We left our house in one direction and returned from the other direction. She paid close attention to stopping at each road or sidestreet to look and listen before crossed. I called out encouragement and helped her walk through a newly-formed anxiety of the train crossing through town. At one point while sitting on our front steps, my girl scooted close to me so her shoulder touched my arm, and I leaned back into her, a silent reminder each to each that we love each other. It has been a rough two months, cooped up together, constantly in each other’s bubbles, an introvert and extreme extrovert. That quiet moment shared between us was honestly a little miracle moment in the midst of the past few weeks, and I am so thankful for it.

This time of separation and isolation has been difficult for us all. It has often rubbed our personalities and feelings the wrong way. Introverts have been surrounded by their people on a constant basis with no way to escape the chaos of family. Extroverts have been prevented from surrounding themselves by their friends and new people with whom they can make friends. Parents suddenly had to take on the role of teacher, conductor, coach, etc. Children have had to take greater the initiative of learning. We have ALL become counselors to a greater degree as we try to meet our children’s hierarchy of needs in the midst of all this (which they often cannot even articulate), as well as our own. We are all starved for the companionship and affective of separate family and friends. This has been and is hard.

So that quiet moment when my girl leaned into me, or at night when she requests a lullaby and reaches to hold my hand while I sing, those momentary miracle mean even more. And I want to notice them before it is too late.

May we notice and cherish these momentary miracles as we walk through these days…separate but still together.


A Long Way From Home – Day 4: Makings of Mermaid

Today was monumental. It was my girl’s first day at the beach! Well, technically not her “first” day. Of the three years that we have brought her to visit her grandparents and my side of the family, we have taken her to the beach for two of them. Both times, she was adamant that the water was NOT for her. This time, however, we could barely keep her from running headlong into the ocean. I managed to convince my little mermaid to go slowly, bit by bit. First, feet in the waves, then up to her waist with Grandpa holding her under her arms, and then I got her into her floaty vest and out into the water she went wth me and Grandpa.

All I could do was smile when my girl exclaimed, “This is so much fun!”

After she got out of the water for the second time, my beautiful little mermaid immediately ran over to a bunch of girls who were building sandcastles with spades and pails and sat right down with them and made herself welcome. They were kind girls and shared a pail and spade with her and taught her how to make sandcastles with it. The girls didn’t run her off, didn’t comment on how her mom should teach her to ask first. They just accepted my girl into their midst and taught her something new that she had longed to do for weeks. It did my heart tremendous good to see kindness curated in such a real and gentle way. Thank you, girls! I hope you have a great rest of your vacation.

To see my daughter enjoy such innocent and exuberant fun made my soul soar. It also gave me a chance to sit quietly and observe the beach that I had frequented in my childhood. It feels strange to start thinking in terms of “when I was a kid” or “when I was young” but the truth is that, in this coming month, I will be a full-grown hobbit. Today, people stretched up and down the beach as far as I could see. When I was a child, the occupancy of the beach was a fraction of that, even on a Saturday, so to see such a crowd on a Thursday was startling. There are also vendors everywhere: beach chairs, food, snorkel rentals, raft rides, etc. None of that was ever a part of beach going when I was a kid; if you couldn’t get a spot under one of the cabanas that were there, you set up your towels and such in the deepest shade you could find.The world I knew is the world I knew no longer. Not that that’s a bad thing, as it’s still a world that I can share with my daughter and my family.

A Long Way from Home – Day 1: Bumping My Happy

Back again in my childhood home. Haven’t even been here 24 hours and already someone in my family has commented that I look like I’ve gained weight. Not “You look nice” or “It’s good to see your face”. Heck, I would have even taken a “You look absolutely exhausted”  after twelve hours of traveling today. But, no, I get “But it looks like you’ve put on some weight.” Thanks. Really, thanks a lot. Sufficed it to say, coming back to my childhood home is almost never good for my self-esteem and, unfortunately, I don’t think it’s ever going to change. It’s always been this way. It doesn’t make it kind or right but it’s been happening for as long as I can remember. People who really have no business  commenting on others’ bodies (and often no leg to stand on) make snide comments that are really expected to be taken as a joke when, at best, they are assuming and dismissive and, at worst, can be emotionally devastating.

I have told the story of how a favorite dress (a gorgeous maroon and black cheongsam) was left to fade away into obscurity in my closet because someone thought it was their place and job to thoughtlessly inform me that I looked fat in it. What I will never forget is how confused he seemed when I told him not to speak to me anymore and to go away. As if he just couldn’t grasp why I was so upset. I know I spoke to that young man briefly at least one other time after that, when I was in grad school. This time, he expressed his surprise that I had a boyfriend but wouldn’t explain just why it was surprising. I will admit that I most definitely unfriended, deleted, and/or blocked him on all levels and platforms after that. That was an energy and presence that I just didn’t need.
Energy. I hadn’t thought of it that way but it’s an almost perfect example. It’s very, very hard when you expend such energy on your life, on doing what’s good for your family, for your child, for your friends, and for yourself, only to have the only thing remarked on to be your physical weight. Your particular form’s relationships with gravity. Just as you pour your energy out, others pour their energy into you, and deciding what to do with it–to use it to make bricks to add to my path or to sit in it and let it suck me down further–is really hard sometimes. The struggle is so very real when my happy-with-myself gets bumped. I do my best to either reply nicely or not reply at all. This seems like a prime opportunity to practice grace, as well as salting my words and reminding myself of my glorious.

NaBloPoMo 2014 Day 20: As the Old Song Goes…

This time next week, if all goes well, Thanksgiving dinner will be over and my little home will still be full of family and delicious smells. Turkey, sweet potatoes, broccoli casserole, pies. The food will have been consumed with all the gusto and gratitude for which we are known, and the leftovers will have been divvied up into their respective containers (though I’ll probably still be filching dark meat from the bottom of the turkey pan). The tables, plates, flat- and glassware will have been cleared away and maybe even washed by now, the family will be spread over the couches and chairs, and maybe, if I am supremely lucky, my daughter will be snoozing along with her grandfather on his lap while the songs and quips of “White Christmas” fill the room. It’s a tradition: Thanksgiving dinner and the watching of “White Christmas” usher in the Christmas season in our family.

I love Thanksgiving! I love the time spent with family, as well as the fact that there are no presents, no pressure. On the whole, though, it is just relaxing, meditating on all the good that we have in this life, enjoying each other’s company, plates (several) of good food, and good, fun conversation (I say silly things when on the verge of a food coma). While Christmas season might be my favorite, Thanksgiving is probably (I am just now realizing) my favorite holiday with family. I mean, think about it: it’s a day specifically set aside to count our blessings. And that’s always a good practice.

NaBloPoMo 2014 Day 18: Cancellation’s Freedom

When I was teaching, you know what one of my favorite things was? Snow days. Yes, I know, snow days are a pain in the rear – the adjusting plans, the getting behind, the making them up, etc. Yes, an absolute pain, but there was something special to them, too.

When I first started teaching right after we got married, my in-laws were also teaching. In fact, they and Ben worked at the same school, in a different corporation than me. So, on the rare times that we had snow days off together, it was a treat. If the snow was high and deep, Ben and I often would decide that we weren’t going anywhere. More often than not, the phone would ring and it would be Ben’s dad, asking us if we wanted to go get breakfast. Half an hour later, Dad’s big old Dodge Ram would pull into the driveway, we’d pile in, and the four of us would venture out into the snowy world in search of a yummy breakfast. I loved those days. The world bright and clean and free. It was the thrilling joy of an unexpected holiday and the happiness of time spent with the family.

Yeah, I loved snow days.

The Dreaded Heart Day

St. Valentine’s Day is this Friday. It is upon us, and the longer I live, the more contempt and disdain do I find in my generation for this holiday. Sure, it’s been commercialized almost as much as Christmas, but I don’t understand the deep dislike. Even when I was single, I didn’t feel badly towards Valentine’s Day. I didn’t despair that I didn’t have someone to buy me flowers or anything, really. So often, the complaints that I hear about Valentine’s stem from anger at the reminder to those who are single that they are indeed that: single, and that there’s such a big expectation (gifts, flowers, dinner, sex), as well as disappointment when things don’t go as imagined, or don’t go at all. What I have noticed about these complaints is the direction in which they point; these complaints point at ourselves, what WE want, what WE expect out of Valentine’s Day. Isn’t the idea of Valentine’s Day pointing in the other direction, outward to others? Isn’t the point for us to show others how much we love them? Not just to sit and wait to be told how much we are loved. So I refused to fall into the trap of becoming bitter and angry about “Singles Awareness Day”.

Instead I turned my focus outward. Valentine’s Day became an excuse for me to especially remind those I loved that I did indeed love and appreciate them. In college, I bought flowers and cards from the sororities that were selling them for the occasion and charity and had them delivered to my best female friends. I bought snacks for my guy friends who had a wonderfully generous “open door” policy to their home. I enjoyed running around with my Valentine’s secrets hidden in my chest and in my smile.

When I began dating my husband, I will admit that Valentine’s became a bigger deal, particular our very first one together. I was desperate to detail out just how much I loved him – “how do I love thee, let me count the ways” and al that. Now, nine years removed from that particular February 14th, I caught myself at Hallmark the other day, about to buy a dozen sappy cards, telling my daughter that we “had lots of Valentines to buy”. The truth is: no, we didn’t. I didn’t. So I put them back and picked up one for my dear husband (which I cannot wait to give to him). I still plan on spending Thursday evening and Friday morning letting the people I love know that I love them and that I am so grateful for their presence in my life.

So, instead of hating on Valentine’s with all the “righteous” indignation and vehemence of our generation, maybe you can turn it outward and focus on telling those you love that you love them in simple, meaningful (and maybe even secret) ways.

Here’s to a restored faith in St. Valentine’s Day!

NaBloPoMo Day 10: Day of Rest

Most people consider Sunday as a day of rest but that’s kind of gone the way of the dinosaur for me. As the wife of a new pastor, Sundays are an incredibly busy day for us with Sunday School, worship service, and any after-church activities taking up three-fourths of our day sometimes. I tend to have very busy mornings, even before we leave the house, with Elizabeth’s breakfast, getting her and myself dressed, dealing with food if there’s a potluck after church, etc. There are some Sundays when I do in two hours what perhaps a lot of people get done in a full morning’s work.

Then, after church, there’s usually lunch with the family and then home for a few hours of playtime before supper and the bedtime routine for a particular little girl. After that, I tend to collapse, exhausted, onto the couch and fall into quiet and stillness for the remainder of the night until my own inevitable bedtime. The TV drones on in the background, mostly ignored, as I try to find something to exercise my mind and achieve some sort of fun, I guess, amidst the work of the day. I never thought that I would long for those days when I was a little girl and my mother would force me to lie down and nap after lunch on a Sunday. What I would give for someone to a.) give me the opportunity/time for that and b.) force me to do it now. I suppose I just never realized how busy a pastor and his family could be on a Sunday, what is almost everyone else’s ‘day of rest’. Sundays exhaust me more than almost any day of the week anymore, between getting my family out the door, wrangling my very energetic eleven-month-old daughter, and taking care of my family at home.

But the fact is that I still love Sundays. I love being in church with my little family, listening to my husband preach, and spending time with like-minded people whose lives show such happiness and fulfillment. Even though I count myself one exhausted woman by the end of the day as I write this, I still love Sundays.