Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How To Dress A Girl You Love

I knit it for her when she was still inside, feathery fingering weight yarn in purest magnolia-white that just seem to go on forever, thousands of tiny stitches spelling out love. On Saturday I sewed on the two vintage glass buttons my cousin gave me from her grandmother's collection. On Sunday, I slipped it over her downy head in the nursery at church, moments before the start of the service. She slept soundly, wrapped in merino wool on a Sunday in July.

Magnolia Grace joined the family of Christ on July 19th and when our pastor held her up like a prize for the whole congregation to see welcome, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Being a Mother is always about letting go, nudging forward, releasing. Being a girl is always a gamble. Even in a country without sex selective practices and cultural preference for boys, being a girl is a risk. A liability. A marginalized state. Even in a country where girls can attend college or procure employment, they are objectified, labeled and boxed in from day one.

I have four daughters, a fact that can bring me to my knees with anxiety. Not because I don't adore each of my precious girls, but because I do. Because I want more for them than this world, this country, this culture can offer them. The pastor holds my girl up and I breathe easier because I remember - she's in His hands now.

I loved my girl Maggie before I ever saw her dear little face, held her tightly to my breast and inhaled her magical baby smell. Before I saw her, I knew her - kicking deep inside me while I crafted her grace-garment. I think about God on a dark night and how He's made one for me, too, something I'll never grow out of, something that expands as I age, something that I can put on every single day and hold close each and every night.

It's the only way I can navigate this world, with all it's clamoring seductions and sadness. Slipping on that garment of grace the only way I can bear to live another moment as one sin-sick human loving others similarly afflicted.

Something big enough to hold me and those I come in contact with. Something that is never too small to cover all. Every stress, panic attack, fear, sin, failing. Every heartbreak. Each and every thing swaddles snugly within the grace garment He wove especially for me.

My Magnolia sleeps soundly on my bed and I seal up her special gown, tuck it away in the closet until she's ready to pass it on. That's how grace works. It's never just for us. It's always big enough to be given away and my little Grace, she'll give it away someday - to a daughter or a niece or a granddaughter. That's how it's made to work. It is handed down from one generation to the next and we pass it on to one another like a talisman to guide us through, a solid promise that He will always be enough - for me, for her, for everyone who we come in contact with.

Knowing He is ever present and she is always, always swathed in purest white grace that comes from only one place.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

These Days...

How is it already midsummer? My best friend asked me conversationally if I'd given any thought to this fall's curriculum. I resisted to the urge to laugh/cry. Oh, mercy. Each and every day has enough trouble for itself and I'm sure I'll get a plan together the week before we start (maybe).  My brother and a dear friend from High School are both getting married in early fall. Our family vacation is in August through the beginning of September. I'm still in a post partum fog (yes, still. And no, I have no intention of pulling out any time soon) and life just keeps throwing curveballs faster than I can catch them. No, I don't have my curriculum planned, but I do have faith it will come together like it always does. These days, well...

~ The three oldest kids are gone for a few days with Grandpa up at Fish Camp and the 6 and under set and I are finding our new normal to be reprised later this summer when the big kids head south with the other set of grandparents. I wonder if I'll look back at this summer being the beginning of a shift, the year where our little family found ourselves divided up more and more. I miss my older kids more than I can say when they are away, but I'm reveling in this time with the younger set, watching Jonah have a chance to be the oldest and enjoying the dynamic of my two little boys and two little girls getting along (or not). We are consuming an obscene amount of popsicles, we had an ER visit on the very first day and both J and I are falling into bed exhausted at the end of every day. Oh, yes, I miss those big kids!

~ This weekend J's parents will be in town and Magnolia will finally be baptized. I'll admit to a bit of a panic at the thought of trying to get us all dressed appropriately and behaving appropriately at the front of the church in front of God and everyone at 10 am this Sunday - but then I had a little smack of perspective. Even if Rosie refuses to wear shoes and Pete tries to make a grand escape and Maggie spits up all over her lovingly handknit christening gown - God will still show up. The congregation watching might get a little glimpse into what it really means to be open to life and love and family. I might get another hit of humility, something I could always use more of. Framed that way, it doesn't sound that bad, right? (But please, Rosie - wear shoes! I promise you can take them off in the pew!)

~ Today my oldest is 12. That means this is the last year of life before teenagers. I'm not ready. I'm so not ready that I can get myself quite worked up about the whole business, so instead I'm focusing on all the things I love about this boy. His confidence, kindness, thoughtfulness, his gentle little soul. He's got more than a touch of his Mama's sarcasm, fiery temper (sorry, son) and sparkling comedic wit (you're welcome), but mostly he is his father's son. 12 years ago I didn't know how to be a Mother. He was the start of the adventure. He will always be the gift who began it all. I'm grateful for every day that he is mine.

~ My knitting has been stalled out for quite some time. I'd start something, change my mind, frog, start something else, change my mind again...on and on and on. I finally decided to knit Rosemary a "Granny's Favorite" like the one I knit for Fiona in Mosaic Moon's "Rosebud" semi solid. The color is perfect for fall, not to mention for my dark eyed girlie with her beautiful brunette curls. I'm about halfway down the body and entertained for a nanosecond the idea of getting it done in time for her to wear to the baptism, but the odds of that happening are pretty much slim to none.

~ I started working out a few times a week a few weeks ago and it's really remarkable to me how quickly fitness increases if you just work at it a bit. I have very low expectations, but just try to follow the advice an old friend once gave me: Sweat every day. Get your heart rate up for at least 20 minutes and sweat every day. I've been doing about ten minutes of a Hiit workout (youtube has a ton), 10 minutes of yoga and 10 minutes of strength training a day. Sometimes it's all at once. Sometimes it's spread out throughout the day as I have a moment here or there. This week it has all been in a toy cluttered living room while hollering at Rosie not to climb under my legs and the boys joining in. Low expectations, no guilt, no babysitting, no gym. Just sweating every day. It makes me feel good, think more clearly and gives me energy, all things that are well worth the effort.

Things here are good. God is good. Life is as messy and chaotic as always, my yard is full of weeds, my kids are sticky and dirty more often than not, J's work situation may be changing again soon and we're just doing the next thing. Sometimes I step out on the back porch and just take a deep breath and close my eyes - just for a moment. Sometimes it's just enough to untie the jangled nerves and soothe my stress knotted muscles and remind me that every breath I take on this day is a miracle.

And that is good enough for me.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Just a Little Bit

I've been convicted of time management lately.

I told my husband "There is enough time in my day for everything important. I just need to be better about time management." He dubiously cautioned me "Everything? Don't overdo it." I brushed it off.

It's summer. The daily rush of school is set aside for a little bit. Why shouldn't I have time to workout, do laundry, read to the kids, make food, clean, knit, write, read, play outside...? The answer must be distraction. Unintentional time-frittering. I must be lazy.

Armed with a plan to intentionally "do all the things," I started. Quickly things went downhill. That is, not according to plan. Halfway through my work out, a parenting demand was made of me that I was unable to put off for later. So I got a half work out. Once interrupted, the baby needed to nurse, and then it was lunch time, and then it was clean up lunch time, and then I realized I needed to go ahead and shower and give up the pipe dream of resuming that now hours-past work out. Out of the shower, the toddlers needed naps. The baby didn't want to be put down. A friend dropped by. Another called. Then it was time to figure out dinner.

All the time, my frustration mounted. Frustration with myself. Why couldn't I be organized? Why was my day bite-sized chunks of this and that, never a full, satisfying box-check of finished tasks? I spiraled. Why can't I manage my time? Why can't I be like those "no excuses" Moms with ripped abs and healthy, well adjusted kids?

I leaned against the kitchen counter after wiping it for the billionth time, picked up some knitting that was laying nearby and knit a row. One.Row. "Well, that's something." I thought. And then I thought some more.

Today, I worked out. Just a little bit. Today I got a shower. I cleaned a little. I visited with a friend. I read to my kids. I pushed them on swings. I cleaned out the fridge. I had a heart to heart with my preteen. I filled hearts and bellies. I knit and I jotted down a little something to write about later.

Just a little bit of each thing, but you know what? I did get it all in. Just not how I thought it would be.

My life is full of interruptions, but interruptions are often God-ordained opportunities. Perhaps the most important thing I did today was set my expectations aside for what was needed at the time. That's no small feat. People feel comfortable swinging by my house. That's a privilege, truly, even though at times it can send me into a bit of a panic. Life doesn't stop. If everything went according to my plan, I'd miss out on so much of what life is all about: serving others in love.

God has given me a passion for many wonderful things in life. He has also given me 7 wonderful kids, a community of amazing friends and family and a husband to care for. He gives in abundance all the desires of my heart.

Today I got in bite-sized pieces of everything I wanted to do. Tomorrow I may not, but you know? I live a life where it is possible. Today, my time management is largely open to the needs of others. It won't always be that way, but while it is? I know I'm not lazy. I know I'm not making excuses. I'm also not checking boxes. I'm living life as it presents itself, one knitted row at a time.

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