Friday, May 1, 2015

Sunshine for Sara

Sometimes God places a person in your life in a way you never expected. Sometimes you don't even realize it's happening until you look back a decade and realize a third of your life has been enriched by their presence in it. Sara is that person for me.

My Mom always cautioned me against making friends online. Or posting pictures of the kids. Or having identifying information available, like addresses, phone numbers, etc. A common fear at the dawn of widespread internet use was that people were regularly tracked down and murdered or abducted due to carelessness with their personal information.

That was the age I grew up in, and why my first email address bore little resemblance to my actual name. Still, I couldn't resist, and back then when the only social networking were forums or chat rooms and blogs were still called weblogs, I started one.

I can't say when exactly I met my friend Sara, or who found who first, but through those early blogs we got connected. Both very young Moms, we had blogs that helped us feel connected during a lonely point in our lives. And babies. Lots and lots of babies. In fact, over the years we ended up kind of in sync, and are now both pregnant with our #7's. We've both done a lot of growing up. A lot of changing. She is one of just a few online friends I have met "in real life" and is someone I consider to be a close friend. Someone to rely on. Someone who gets me.

She's who I think of when people talk about online friendships in a negative way, as if such connections could never be more than superficial. With Sara, I've shared incredibly personal moments. I've confessed deep dark secrets and I've whispered prayers for her and her family. Yes, she's technically my "online" friend who I've seen three times total. She's also a kindred spirit. A person who knows me in ways others just don't.

Both Sara and I started knitting around the same time and it quickly became a passion for both of us. Something we enjoy that we can do right along side raising our kids and dealing with the stress and insanity that life tends to bring. She made me a beautiful dress when Rosie was small, and I bought yarn to make something for her corresponding baby - and didn't, once Rosie revealed herself to be colicky and entirely intolerant of me doing anything but holding her.

This time around, she sent me a lovely set for my #7 and I managed to get something together for her expected little one. There's something special about knitting for a friends' baby. Something extra special to knit something for someone who you know "gets" the deal about knitting. The time it takes, the careful selection of materials and patterns. Someone who knows how to take care of it and truly appreciates what goes into it. I just love the opportunity to keep both Sara and her baby in my mind and heart, praying for both while needles and yarn work together to become something special.

Yesterday, she messaged me her ultrasound picture. After three little ladies in a row, #7 is a boy. Which puts us both with 4 girls and 3 boys. I laugh because of course. That's just how we are. In sync in the funniest ways.

It's been a few years since I've seen Sara. We have plans to try and get together this summer, knitting on the beach while watching our kids play.  I hope it happens. If not, I'll still know that our ten year friendship is something special. Something priceless. Just knowing that someone out there gets me. It's a precious, precious thing.

(I made Sara's sweet #7 a Baby Vertabrae and socks on sunshiney Swish tonal).

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Most Important Thing To Pack For The Hospital

I realized a few weeks ago that I wasn't ready. The normal things that people think about when welcoming a baby I had all but neglected in our last three deliveries here at home. One thing loomed large to me: packing a hospital bag. I had completely forgotten about that! So used to having everything I need or want right at my finger tips in my very own home, the thought of figuring out what to pack without either going overboard or over simplifying was daunting.

So I did what one does these days and took to facebook with the question. What do you pack in a hospital bag? The responses were as varied as the respondents and it really was fun to read them all, to think about what matters most to me and would bring me the most comfort while I'm away.

I drafted my own list and gathered a few supplies. Kneeling on the floor of my room in front of the open suitcase, I got to thinking about those first moments. Those first few days. What is the most important thing that I know I'll need? The one thing that will make or break my time there, the one thing I want to be sure not to forget?

Thinking about my anxieties of this different venue for delivery, it dawned on me: The most important thing you pack for the hospital is grace. Grace for however this turns out. Grace for how you manage your labor and delivery. Grace for the people who attend you. Mostly, grace for yourself.

There's grace for epidurals and c sections and letting go of what you thought you wanted in exchange for what you need. There's grace for not feeling immediately bonded to your baby. For missing your other children. For looking down at this tiny stranger and wondering what on earth happens next.

Grace the first time you look in the mirror after having a baby. And the 100+ times after that. Grace for the tears you don't understand that just keep coming for no apparent reason. Grace for how the house is going to look post partum, how lack of sleep makes your bones ache, how love can be an exhausting exercise in giving everything you've got and getting nothing back. Grace for your husband who is doing his very best to support you even when he gets it wrong.

Now is the time to hold your chin up and ignore the term "supermom." Now is the time to set aside striving of any kind beyond taking care of yourself and that wonderful new person you brought into the world. There is no badge for taking the baby on his first outing at 4 days old. Or fitting in pre pregnancy jeans in those first weeks. There is no shame for accepting any and all help offered - or even asking for it. It's a grace to give others the opportunity to serve. There's grace for not wanting visitors - and if ever a time existed where saying "no" is appropriate, it is now.

If I forget chapstick or hair ties, J can run out and get them. Even if I leave my cell phone charger at home, it can be easily brought up later on. There is really nothing material that will make or break, but grace? Grace is a non negotiable.

This letting go takes courage. It takes humility. But the most important thing is grace for how it goes.

I zip up my suitcase and set it by the bedroom door, knowing I've got everything, everything that I need.

2 Corinthians 12:9

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in 

weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my 

weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Laboring Through Motherhood

{Today I'm working on a few submissions to other publications, but I didn't want to leave you in the lurch! Sharing an archived post written mere hours before Rosemary made her appearance two years ago. Holding on to these thoughts today.}

Birthdays were celebrated.  Easter eggs dyed, hunted, relished.  Little girl hair curled and boys in vests and button downs, all in a row on Easter morning.  We made it through March, and time just marches on by.

I'm a mixture of relief and exhaustion these days - relieved that those busy days are past and too exhausted to think of what comes along next.  In these 10 years of being a mother, you'd think I would have learned by now that plans go awry and the way we envision things to unfold rarely is played out in reality.

My sister and I used to play a game, tell one another not to imagine something a certain way - certain that, if we did, it would turn out the exact opposite.  So we'd intentionally not daydream about Mom buying us a new pair of jeans or the boy we liked from afar asking for our phone numbers.  A silly childhood game, to be sure, but I still think about that now...all these years later.  As the saying goes, Man plans - God laughs.

It consumes my thoughts during these late pregnancy days.  And reminds me that the waiting and the wondering of late pregnancy is really a hint into the work of motherhood that lies ahead.  That place where dreams and plans and aspirations don't always turn out the way we envision.  Most of us enter motherhood with a list of do's and do nots.  In our ignorance, we make outrageous claims.  "I would never do...."  "I will always..."

I've had my moments of mothering arrogance, as I'm sure we all have.  I've also had my moments of utter and complete humility.  Those are the moments where I think we can see just how mothering changes us, for better or worse.  Like in labor, the only way out is through.  The only way out of a tough night with a house full of sick kids?  Is through.  The only way out of a bad situation with a teenager is to work through the problem.  We learn time and again that, in mothering, sticking our fingers in our ears and ignoring the struggles that we face will never get us through them.  We'll simply be stuck somewhere in the middle.

When the only way out is through, sometimes the way through is to let go.  Let go of expectations, ideals, our do's and don'ts.  Let go of that picture perfect vision in our minds of the way life ought to be, and grab hold of the way it is.  Accepting the children and spouses we have, our own weaknesses and strengths, and lay hold to the freedom of knowing that the very act of embracing a life of service means we got the most important part of it right.

Mothering is raw and real and, at times, ruthless...not a neat little hobby, an accessory to an already full life.   Like labor, this is a ride of waves.  A swell that peaks and then dissipates, day after day after day.  Some more intense than others.  Some we doubt are real, some we can hardly breathe through.  The only way out is through and the ride is long, but with determination, we can all reach the other side, the triumph of a job well done - a life well lived.  Even when we've left some plans and priorities behind.

In laying claim to these truths, we grab hold of the perseverance required in this holy and hard vocation...You and me?  We've got what it takes.  Not perfectionism, but humility and strength.

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