Friday, October 28, 2011

the case of too much imagination

"talk to me."  that's all it said.   it was a tuesday morning,  i had been home for a few hours when i went to climb into my SUV. as i opened my unlocked door there this note sat staring directly at me from the driver's seat.  "talk to me."  oh...i thought, surprised, where did this come from?  who would leave me this note?  i was certain it hadn't been there earlier when i had run the children to school.  someone must have just left it for me.  i immediately began to rack my brain, wondering which friend needed me...which friend or neighbor or acquaintance was asking for my attention.  i considered every angle, every possibility, as i climbed into my car and drove off.  before i was even out of my neighborhood i began to think of people in my life who were going through something hard and heavy.  one by one, faces and names rolled through my head.  i was startled by how many came to mind... and all the while wondering who? who had left this note?

i stuck the post-it type note to my dashboard and continued to glance at it while running around town from errand to errand the rest of the morning.  in fact, all day long i pondered. mused. considered.  i even talked a little with God about it.  as i drove from here to there, i prayed for this potentially needy friend...for this obviously lonely person.  but i couldn't make sense of why they hadn't left their name. what was that all about? i was distressed.  how was i ever supposed to figure out who it was? how was i ever going to figure out who it was that needed to talk? who it was that needed me?

i shared the occurence with one of my closest friends - knowing she wasn't the type to leave a note.  she agreed it was strange.  sad.  a mystery. though i was worried about this hurting note-leaver, i can't say i didn't enjoy the intrigue of it all.  i am a girl who grew up on nancy drew novels.  though i didn't much like the thought of a sad friend, i certainly loved the idea of a good mystery.  a puzzle.  something to solve.  i  have no doubt when i someday have 5 children gone and a spare 5 minutes to spend i will be that slightly odd woman sleuthing around town with a notebook and pencil and a bunch of questions.  but not now. now i can't ever seem to find a notebook or a pencil and if i do, it would be much more prudent for me to create a grocery list or update my calendar.

so there i was all week in my wondering.  perhaps you noticed me looking hard at you. staring strangely at you from across the room. sizing you up. that was probably because i was assessing whether or not you had the look of a desperate note writer.  this went on for several days.  i scrutinized over countless individuals -- at least those within driving distance. my mind played out all kinds of scenarios as i was determined to solve the case of the stuck sticky note -- the case of the lonesome friend.  i am not a bored woman, i assure you, but my musings did take me to to some pretty outlandish ideas.  i'll save those for another writing.

my little mystery was going along quite nicely until this past weekend when i decided to share the odd discovery with my children.  i did my mother's creative best to set the stage and paint the picture of intrigue.  i had them all eating out of my hand as i wove together their mother's own personal puzzle.  i was just about to the dramatic (lesson) part about how we don't always know when a friend is hurting, when my 11 year old daughter piped up, "mom, did the sticky note have a green kind of background?"  "uumm... yes, honey, it did," i replied.  could it be my own child ? i hadn't thought of that - gasp.  but it wasn't her handwriting!  just as i was about to grab her tightly to me and imploringly ask her why she felt she needed to leave a note ... she continued.  "oh mom, that was a note attached to my art test.  mrs. duffy put it on my paper so i would come see her about my test."

really? that was it?  really?  that was all? no sad friend.  no lonely person? no one desperately in need of me? i was dumbfounded.  my mystery unravelled and crashed hard at my sleuthing feet.   no riddle.  no intrigue.  no nothing.   just a note from the art teacher which somehow fell off of my daughter's test paper and onto the front seat of my car.  it probably had somehow been attached to my rear end the entire morning.  so my big puzzle had been solved -- anticlimactically, at that.  i had to laugh at myself.  i was almost embarrassed to think how far my mind had traveled all because of a little sticky note.   my mother always said my imagination ran wild.  she knew it when at age four i would pray dramatic and wordy, wordy prayers.  "dear Lord, thank you for the babbling brooks and the sparkling streams..." that kind of thing.  she knew it when i would orchestrate (i.e., force) my younger siblings and the neighborhood children into great backyard dramas and plays.  i was always in charge. directing.  creating. conjuring up something from nothing.  i suppose even in my middle age, i am slightly prone to this same thing. apparently.

but here's the deal.  even though this mystery ended with an anticlimactic fizzle, i believe my finding this note was no accident.  i kind of believe this note --these words-- had a purpose in my life right now.  maybe i wasn't supposed to be chasing a mystery around town,  but it did cause me to stop and consider a lot of people.  it caused me to pause.  it caused me to pray.  it caused me to wonder who in the world was hurting.  i haven't been especially good at that lately. i've been all wrapped up in my own own chaos...and i haven't taken all that much time to think about what others might be going through.  maybe cancer does that to you. maybe motherhood does that to you too.  i don't know.  but i think this week of wondering was good for me.

it isn't easy to look past our own stuff.  we have so much competing for our time and attention.   we drive by neighbors and race through check out lines.  we offer a wave and a tight smile and keep going.  at least i do.  maybe you're better about stopping.  but sometimes i feel my neighbors only know me by the tail lights of my yukon.  they see me coming and going.  and lately i seem to be only going--always off to somewhere.  someplace.  something.  this makes me crazy.  i want to have a kitchen counter where another woman  would feel welcome to come at any time and sit and talk and share.  but i am afraid that isn't happening much these days. at least not as much as i'd like.  maybe i was supposed to find that sticky note --- maybe i did need a reminder note to think about someone else...pray for another. be available.

i am saving this note.  it is on my bulletin board above my desk.  a reminder -- not to make up pretend puzzles...but to slow down and make time to remember people.

please, talk with me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


it is october. already five months since my surgery, but for some reason i can't stop thinking about something pretty amazing which occurred back in the middle of may, in the middle of a mother recovering from a double mastectomy.   it wasn't anything mind blowing or earth shaking, but for me it was huge.  

while i was healing from the surgery, bella never once asked me to hold her.  i mean it, she never once fussed about the fact that mommy couldn't pick her up or hug her hard.  and yet in the months leading up to the surgery, it was all she wanted.  "up-eee, mommy," she would say, and sometimes demand, with arms reaching high.  by april, she wanted nothing more than to be carted around on my hip - nonstop.  i kept telling myself it was just a phase and would soon pass. i had mothered four other small ones through this clingy stage and i assured myself that none of them were still asking to be carried around town.  my back ached a bit and my arms were often too full, but i was secretly delighted to do it. i carried her everywhere.  so when we were faced with the news of my surgery, it was one of the things which i was most distressed over in contemplating my recovery.  i couldn't imagine how we were going to get through this kind of physical separation.  i couldn't imagine having to explain it to her or having to deny her this simple comfort.

in fact, in all of my appointments with all of my different doctors, i never really broke down about the cancer until a conversation with my plastic surgeon, dr. woods.  a few weeks before the surgery he was explaining my limitations and making sure we were clear on how careful i would need to be.  he talked on and on and on.  i half-listened.  when he was finished telling me all i couldn't or shouldn't do, i finally tuned in and asked him the only thing which was really on my mind: how long? how long would it be before i could hug my children or hold my little bella?  but the question got lost in my tears. i was barely able to ask it for the sob inside my chest.  forget the lump in my breast, it was the lump in my throat i couldn't get past. how could i not hug or hold my children for four weeks? the older ones would understand, but that would be a lifetime to the littlest ... and to me.  i had only had her in my arms for nine months.  i still felt we had much to catch up on. much lost time to recover.  much to make up.  she had lived 2 years in an orphanage of 3000 children, i know she was not hugged and cuddled and caressed as a child needs to be.  this little girl needed all of me.  she needed my shoulders to rest on and my chest to lean into and my arms to wrap tightly around her.  when she stood with arms held high she needed to know her mama was already there bending to scoop her up and hold her fierce and fast and forever.

i left that appointment with more than an angry tumor inside. i left with an angry spirit, a broken heart. everything, all of it, bubbling to the surface finally.  simmering hot and beginning to boil inside.  honestly, i left frustrated with God, asking why He would bring this cancer right now.  couldn't he have given me at least one full year with bella home.  a full year to prove to her our love and to prepare her for this road.  we had barely unpacked our suitcases from china.  we were only beginning to settle into some semblance of a routine.  i sulked the entire car ride home.  cheek against the window.  head and heart hard against the plan. this wasn't okay with me. this wasn't part of my plan.

there are a lot of serious things to consider when the cancer battle begins.  i waited on results and outcomes and my prognosis.  all of it heavy. all of it mind-and-body-and-soul consuming...but in the midst of everything weighty was my worry about not functioning fully as a mommy.  we think we are just flat out indispensable, don't we? no one, absolutely no one, can do what we do. and truthfully, we don't  want anyone else to do it.  i mean maybe we'd sign up for a few hours or so of help.  that's cool.  maybe even for an evening out or for an afternoon off. that can be pretty wonderful too, but not weeks.  i am sure we don't find pure and utter joy in all of our mother-work, but it belongs to us. it is ours.  i might like a break from it on occasion, but tell me i can't do it, and watch me argue with you.

i look back at that time now, five months later, and i am almost embarrassed at my behavior that day leaving dr. woods' office.  not the tears -- those were perfectly normal and probably much needed. the tears were a natural response to the news.  what mother wouldn't be heartbroken knowing she was facing a time of such physical hands-off.   but i was really upset with God over all of it.  i doubted His plan.  i even doubted His goodness.  i know many of you thought i didn't.  but i need to tell you tonight, i did.   i mostly trusted and i mostly believed and i mostly was at peace...but i'd be lying if i didn't tell you i had some pretty hard moments when i felt shattered and afraid and even, at times, very angry.

but back to the miracle.  so there we were the week after surgery.  i was a mess, in every sense of the word.  you can imagine --the whole nine yards.  i couldn't brush my own hair or teeth, couldn't sit up in bed without help, couldn't barely breath.  but in the middle of it all was bella -- bella,  calm and content and seemingly at peace.  she would come in to see me and stroke my arm or hold my hand.  she would talk to me nonstop in her little, happy chattering way.  she said, over and over again, to me, "mommy has boo-boos?  mommy all better soon?"  i would reply, "yes, honey, mommy has boo-boos."  all the while thinking, now that's the understatement of the year!  but she was right, those boo-boos did heal.  are healing - inside and out.  bella's sweet spirit and quiet contentment were such a blessing to me in those weeks afterward. i couldn't believe how well she was handling all of it.  i couldn't believe how well adjusted she was proving to be.  really, how well all the kids were doing was remarkable.

this wasn't my timing.  this wasn't my plan.  if God had left it up to me, i would have done things differently.  okay, now that REALLY is the understatement of the year! but here's the deal, the true miracle isn't that bella didn't ask to be held...the true miracle is how God showed Himself faithful and true in all of this.  i couldn't hold bella, but He held her.  He held us both.  He held all of us, in fact.  i know this now.  even just five months later, i know that sometimes God makes us unable to do what we think we need to do, so we can see Him do it for us.  some of us doer-types have to occasionally be stripped of our own doing, of our own strength, of our own power, so we can truly see His--see Him.  we have to become dispensable.  oh, let me tell you,  it isn't easy.  i wouldn't wish this road on anyone, ever.  but how blessed i am to have the chance to look back and truly see something so good.  

maybe today you're trying to hold it all together.  maybe your arms are wrapped around a lot of stuff in your life and it is heavy. heavy hard stuff.   and you don't want to put it down for fear if you do, you'll never be able to pick it back up.  i know that feeling.  i, too, sometimes believe i am the only one who can carry fill-in-the-blank.  i have had a not so gentle reminder this year, i am wrong.  we all need to be carried at times.  and we all need to share our burden.  Jesus tells us, "come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  matthew 11:28.   He has arms open for us...and for our burdens. He is waiting.

bella didn't come to me with her hands lifted up.  she didn't cry for me to hold her.  i couldn't lift her, i couldn't even lift up my own hands for those first few weeks.  but  i can look back now and see clearly how we were both lifted up, how we were both held close.  

it has been 5 months and she is back on my hip. maybe you passed me in the parking lot today or at the grocery store -- i was that woman with a bag and a 3 year old in my arms.  i am still thinking it is only a phase.  just today i tried the whole, "but bella, God gave you two legs...your legs were made for walking."   she looked up at me with those large dark eyes of hers.  "mommy, bella's legs aren't working today,"  she answered with an impish little grin.  and i laughed as i scooped her up with a slight toss and  strong arms...
and a thankful heart.

and i held her.

"hear the voice of my please for mercy, when i cry to you for help,
when i lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary." ~ psalm 28:2

Sunday, October 16, 2011

almost home

today we celebrated two little girls.  two little girls who have absolutely no idea they were being celebrated.  two little girls who hardly know what a celebration looks like.  there were frosted cupcakes and pink punch and there were presents -- oh boy, were there presents!  these little girls on the other side of the world, both in chinese orphanages, have no idea what awaits them.  i watched my dear friend, meritt, open amazing gift after amazing gift -- one girlie-pink-princess-ey thing after another and all i could think was, they have no idea!  

they have no idea about these puzzles, and tutus, and dishes and shopping carts and play cars and bath toys and books. they have no idea that their mother and older sister sat in a sea of pretty pink and purple this afternoon.  but what is more, they have no idea about the amazing family waiting for them.  the incredible family counting down the days. the beautiful family praying for them -- loving them deeply already.  the toys and clothes and fabulous stuff is wonderful -- but the family -- oh, now, that is what really matters.  that is the true gift.  soon these two little girls who know only life in an orphanage will know the touch of a mother and the arms of a father and the laughter of a sister and the tickle of brothers.  soon these girls will know what it means to sit at a dinner table and climb into a bubble bath and color chalk butterflies on their driveway.  soon the light footsteps of these toddler girls will echo in the hallways of a home and their laughter will spill out the open windows and, come night,  their heads will fall heavy on soft pillows in a room of their own.  soon. soon. soon.  and not soon enough.

oh, i write this tonight and i can feel the longing inside my own self.  i am only the friend.  only the hostess of a shower.  only the maker of that pink punch, but i know.  i know what it felt like to anticipate.  i remember well the expectation and the eagerness as we grew closer to our bella.   i watched meritt and macey open these gifts with bright smiles and excited hands and i couldn't help but remember my own shower for bella.  my own two girls unwrapping and exclaiming and dreaming... and all of it overwhelmingly beautiful. and now she is here.  now she is miraculously home.  as i sit here and type tonight she is sound asleep under the slanted roof of her white paneled room, a stuffed bear tucked under one arm and a quilt pulled up close.  somehow that surreal shower became the reality of a tiny girl who easily calls me mommy. a little girl who greets me in the morning with her warm hug and wet kiss.  tell me there isn't a miracle in this.  tell me there isn't a plan.  tell me God isn't good. 

so today, on this perfect, sky blue and sunshine bright day, a few of us gals threw a shower for two little girls across continents and oceans --  maggie and mary henley.  your pictures hung from a chandelier along with the words BELIEVE, HOPE and JOY.  each woman gathered today at the shower BELIEVES God has a perfect plan for your lives.  we know your HOPE (and our hope) is in Him alone.  and it is with confidence, we anticipate the JOY of your arrival and JOY of your future.

these forty-some women at the shower today celebrated you girls with delight.  and i want you to know, there wasn't one of us present who wouldn't drop everything and rush to china tomorrow -- bagless and shoeless and ticketless, if we could.   we can't.  there is a process --- a procedure -- a little more paperwork.  but, girls, know that there are countless people tonight joining your family in prayers and dreams and in great hope.  knowing, full well,  that the day will come and in God's perfect timing, you will come home.

(psst...and there are some pretty cool things waiting for you --- oh, and not to mention, a very excited new friend named, bella.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

special dresses

they say a picture is worth a thousand words . . .

little girls in little dresses -- there's just something special about that, isn't there? i have saved a few dresses from each of my girl's baby and toddler days. they are tucked away with some other favorite things from those quick, tender years --  these dresses now in boxes, up on high shelves in the back of deep closets. and with three daughters i can see this is only the beginning.  there is a storage closet off one of our rooms and it also plays host to a great number of dresses. baptism gowns, holiday finery,  father-daughter dance dresses, recital tu-tus and now, even a few formals -- memories held draped on plastic hangers. i know there will be many more dresses hanging there before we are finished here.  my mom also had a closet like this.  she, too, had three daughters and couldn't easily part with a few of our special dresses.  taffeta and silk and sundresses all beautiful and still and almost forgotten. 

a few years ago, i traveled back to ohio to help my parents clean out their home in the midst of a downsize and move. my mom struggled that weekend with what to do with all these dresses.  how does a mother give away a dress worn by a daughter?  a dress which might have made her little girl look like a princess --- or possibly too grown up?  a dress which might have even brought tears to this mother's eyes?  how do you stuff that into a garbage bag and haul it off to goodwill with a random assortment of old dishes?  i would suggest parting with some of these sooner than later.  later, to me,  seems harder.  my sisters and i are all scattered out of state now -- and i think saying goodbye to a dress might have been easier while we were still in my mom's house, bickering over boys and leaving messes in her kitchen.  

during that weekend back at home, i found one of my own toddler dresses which my mom had saved. and though impossible, when i held the dress, i could almost remember wearing it.  the sprinkle of flowers on blue seemed somehow familiar -- i'm sure from a picture. but i traveled back to georgia with this tiny, faded blue dress in my suitcase and after sharing it with my family (no way mom --- i can't believe you wore this!), it, too, is now in a special box on a high shelf.  i am not sure what will become of all these girl gowns and frocks,  but i will hold onto them as long as possible.  they remind me. they remind me of who we were and how small they were and how far we've all come -- mothers and daughters, alike.  i don't have any desire to save those size 2 designer jeans which no longer fit...but i will save the dresses. they are treasures.   

this past weekend, i hurriedly put bella into a dress for church. i tugged it down over her shoulders and quickly buttoned up the back. all the while rushing, as is our usual sunday morning routine.  but as she turned around to face me i kind of gasped when i took in the full measure of my girl.  this dress had gotten lost in her closet all summer.  in fact, she hadn't worn it since last year. and as she stood there in the middle of her room in the midst of that dress, i felt my heart flutter.  this was the dress she wore a year ago last summer while visiting her orphanage.  talk about a special dress -- memories flooded over this hurried mama and i knew without doubt, this dress would go into that special box and be saved.  

the first picture above is bella in the dress visiting the orphanage in china.  this was taken just a few days after we got her. she was precious. elf-like. already our darling girl,  but sad and so serious that morning.  so sad that day while visiting the place she had lived for more than two years.  she clung to us, wanting nothing to do with the staff she had known so well.   instinctually, she knew she belonged to us.  it was uncanny. i'll never quite be able to understand how quickly this bond developed. but i am certain, it had nothing to do with us...this was God, like we had never before seen Him.  this dress reminded me of that morning and that orphanage and that serious little girl...and the miracle of her in our arms.

the second picture was taken this morning.  it has been almost 15 months since that orphanage visit.  she is a different girl.  first of all, she is growing!  much to my delight, the dress was too short and jeans were needed to complete the outfit.    it is the same dress.  she is still precious and even more our darling, but the joy is incredible. unmistakeable. oh, boy does she belong with us!  she is right where she belongs.  and i am reminded again, this still has nothing to do with us...this is God, like we've never before seen Him.  there is nothing magical about this dress...not at all...but it brings back the mystery of that china morning and the miracle of every morning. and someday this small dress will take its place in a box, on a shelf, in a closet ... another dress stored and another memory treasured. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

messy blue desks and matching red shirts

today i got organized.  can't you tell?  i want you to be able to tell.  i desperately want you to notice.  feel free to ooh and aah--go ahead, i won't mind.  this is a picture of my desk and it doesn't always look like this.  in fact, it really never looks like this, and so i photographed it for you.  okay...i really photographed it for me -- for my pleasure.  this picture actually brings me real, honest to goodness, happiness.  they say clean houses and organized desks and new shoes can't deliver happiness.  but today i am disagreeing with them.  because i am happy and the desk did it for me.  yep, just this neat and orderly rectangle of blue.  that's all it took.   (see honey, i really am a very simple woman).  i wish i had done a before and after photo, but i didn't think of that (before).  i just wanted it clean.  in a moment of frustration, i was about to sweep everything off of its painted blue surface, but i stopped myself and instead was calm and collected and stable about the whole thing.  i put on some music and took my time. i had to stop and get bella a snack and a marker and countless sheets of stickers, but eventually i could see light at the end of the tunnel -- or at least blue at the bottom of the piles.

here's what makes me crazy about this messy desk though.  i don't even really have a job. i mean, i am not teaching.  there was no stack of english essays piled high. there were no quizzes or theatre scripts or lesson plans to be found in the incredible amounts of stuff.  no, nothing at all like that.  i can't blame the mess on a job...only on jody.  she's a keeper of things and a collector of doo-dads and really good pile-er upper of stuff -- articles to read, things to look at, pictures to sort, letters to write...and before i know it, it is out of control - a billowing, blustery, bad kind of mess.

a few years ago, i took a class called LINK to determine what my gifts might be.  i had to fill out a lengthy, detailed questionnaire which promised to help determine my values.  my results came back and to my shock (and horror) my number one value was efficiency.  not faith or family or compassion or kindness, but efficiency!  i mean i like it and all.  i do value being efficient, it is a most helpful thing, but it was almost embarrassing to think that was the end result of this test.  my husband, who took the class with me, peered over my shoulder at my results.  he said nothing, just raised his eyebrows and did that "hmmm...." thing he does.  he didn't have to say a single word.  i stuffed the result sheet fast into my binder and then stormed off for a cup of weak coffee.  i have to wonder if it was truly a measure of my value or was it just a disorganized mother dreaming...

i do value getting organized.  in fact, it seems i spend an awful lot of time trying to get there, trying to get on top of the piles, trying to get ahead of the game.  i tend to think if i can just get blah-blah done, then i can do blah-blah-blah.  if only i might get ahead in the area of blah-blah then blah-blah-blah will all fall into place.  i can handle fill-in-the-blank if only i can fill-in-the-blank.   are you with me?  do you do this?  do you think if you can wake up and Get Organized everything will then be better.  i don't mean some things, i mean  e v e r y t h i n g. everything will be better.  i'll magically be slimmer and smarter and cooler and calmer if only i can get this thing done!  the problem is this thing changes from day to day.  there is always a this thing looming in my life.  there is always a blue desk to organize or a messy cabinet to declutter or an inbox to empty.

most of you know about the esteemed proverbs 31 woman.  you know the one who gets up early, stays up late, makes her family's clothing and meals (from scratch), and when she's bored she buys a vineyard (with her own blessed money)!  yeah, that girl.  can i let you in on a secret?  i'm kind of glad she's not my neighbor...or best friend...or sister.  i mean i really do admire her.  i think i am supposed to --- i think that is the point.  i certainly want to emulate her (from a distance).  i always have. but sometimes, she kind of wears me out.  she intimidates me.   there is one verse though in that final chapter of proverbs i am especially fond of.  "when it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet."  that verse just cracks me up.  can't you see mrs. proverbs31's children and husband all running around in red?  sort of like the wise families wearing bright, matching shirts at disney world.  they do exist.  i, just this past december, was there and stood staring at the well organized families in their coordinating attire. for this mother of five who barely got the suitcases packed, it was incredible to see.  for the life of me, i cannot imagine telling my fashion savvy 15 year old daughter she must wear the family shirt -- the family colors.  the 14 year old boy would also have put up a rather big fuss, no doubt. had we actually attempted this plan, i just know we would have somehow forgotten to pack at least one of the matching red t-shirts.  it probably would have been the middle child and she would have spent the day at disney wearing yellow, certain we meant to leave her out and utterly convinced she'd be tragically lost.  i am pretty sure disney world would have been dramatically less magical had we attempted to wear red.

i'm kind of giving the proverbs 31 woman a hard time though.  i don't mean to. i think she is included in the bible to give us women encouragement, not guilt.  i am sure of that.  i am also sure that this authentic woman knows what is going on in her house.  she's on it.  she's a with-it kind of mom.  no one is slipping through the cracks or escaping under the radar.  she's that kind of woman.  she's not losing anyone in the whiteout or the chaos or the confusion of life -- they are wearing red.  that means...she is prepared.  she is organized.  she has planned ahead.  she set out those red garments well in advance.  in fact, she spun the cotton (from her field) and dyed them red (from her vineyard).  she didn't have a target to run to or a mall or a website...she had to be organized.  i used to think that verse meant i was required to know where everyone and everything was in my house.  when the 8 year old asked for the signed permission slip i could whip it out of the folder marked "signed permission slips."  when the 15 year old was searching for her driver's permit, i would be already on it, pulling the paper out of the file marked "emily's driver permit."  when the husband requested a receipt, i could rifle through the "receipt" keeper.  when a friend called for a favorite recipe, yep, you guessed it --the "recipe" rolodex! this was how i interpreted that verse -- until i had five children.  and then all these files and folders and keepers started to fall apart, started to crumble. usually i find myself with piles of receipts and permits and papers and recipes all stacked high on the above mentioned blue desk waiting for the perfect moment when the planets align and the great "to be filed" pile, finally and miraculously, gets filed.   in the past few years, we seem to have paused in this to-be-filed place.  everything piled high and nothing exactly where it should be...but certainly on its way -- always on its way!

honestly though, if i was to spend the great gasping amounts of time filing papers and labeling folders, i would most certainly lose track of my household. i don't think this verse has anything to do with matching clothing or organized desktops.  i think the wise woman though does have her industrious little finger determinedly on the pulse beat of her family.  she does know what they are up to.  it doesn't mean she follows them around with a safety net and fireplace padding - lest they fall.  it means she knows who they are...what makes them tick...what makes them laugh till they cry...what makes them cry till they laugh.  she knows the intricacies and inner workings of her husband and her children.  she makes it her business to know them.  it doesn't mean she can always find the school papers to sign.  it doesn't mean she is always on time with a healthy snack in hand.  it means sometimes she climbs tired onto their beds at 10pm and listens as they share their dreams or disappointments.  she fixes them tea or maybe just water at the kitchen counter and quietly hears the heartbreak or triumph of that day.  she doesn't always have the right words or a perfect plan, but she is there. she's hardly ever always stunning or sophisticated, but she is available.  

her desk isn't alway organized.  her life is rarely well ordered, but she knows how to prioritize.  she knows how to put aside the piles and instead gather a girl or a boy onto her lap... or into her arms.  that is the kind of proverbs 31 woman i want to be.  if i happen to stumble into a vineyard purchase or some flax to spin...well that would be great too.   but my job, whether my light burns early or late, is to love my family, wearing red or yellow or just plain old dirt... to love my family.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

when we reach for the moon

"mama, i see the moon!" she says tugging hard at my hand.
"oh yes, bella,  i see the moon too."  i answer.
"it so big," she continues.
"very big," i reply.
"big like bella?" she asks, already so sure.
i chuckle. "maybe."
"i reach it."  determined arms outstretched and confident and high in air.
"of course," i say.  "yes, bella, i believe you might.  yes, you just might." and everything in me smiles.

i won't tell her she can't.  because who really knows. and this is a girl who reaches things. in this year that we've had bella,  i have watched her grab hold of things i wouldn't have guessed possible.  not much stops this little gal.  and little she is. so wee, you can't hardly believe it. 
but stand next to her and you'll see. her size doesn't even register on the standard growth charts at the pediatrician's office.  it doesn't matter though.  not one bit.  because like with the moon, things aren't always the size which they seem.  bella's big personality, enormous smile and resourceful spirit more than make up for her petite frame.

when those things don't quite cut it, she drags around the beaten up, green kitchen stool.  she can't pick it up quite yet, but she can push it most anywhere it needs to go.  pantry. sink. counter. table. desk.  i've even watched her move it into the bathroom.  sometimes she asks for my help.  but mostly she doesn't.  "i can do it!" she announces emphatically to all.  and, usually, she can. and does.

another one of bella's tricks is moving pillows.  when she can't reach a light switch or the TV power button or something up on a chest of drawers, i've watched little miss take throw pillows and pile them high.  i sat amazed, like a brand new mother, the first time she did this in front of me.  she took the pillows one by one and then climbed up onto the stack until her mission was accomplished.  a grin spread across her face.  i didn't have to show her how to do that.  i wouldn't have thought of it.  she just figured it out.  and when the green stool is not handy, she  resorts to pillows.  bella cannot move big, bulky furniture, but she can move pillows and so she does.

i am thinking this quality is going to come in kind of handy later in life.  i love that bella isn't one bit aware of her tiny-ness.  she thinks she can reach the pencils, the milk jug and the moon!   i want to be a little more like that.  i want a dose of this girl's determination.  i want an injection of her ingenuity.  i, somedays, downright need it.  motherhood has a way of squashing you at times.   there's a lot i want to do in my day...many goals and ideas and milestones i want to reach.  except that life (or a kid or the cat or a catastrophe) get in the way and those goals blur a bit.  sometimes i get to the end of a day and wonder what in the world i even did that day.  i look around and see a myriad of half finished things trailing behind me at bedtime.  i am inclined to slam my bedroom door shut and crawl under the covers pretending these incomplete items belong to another woman.  i don't know how they got here.  and i certainly don't know how they'll ever get done -- that's for sure.  but then i look at my little girl.  34 inches and reaching things. step stool mover and throw pillow mover and mountain mover, this girl.  she inspires me. 

"reach for the moon.  even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."  ~ les brown

i fell in love with the author, louisa may alcott, many years ago.  it was christmas time, i'm not sure which year, but i was young and i, that is not quite right,  i inhaled, her book, little women.  it took me to a place far away and i have always been crazy about far away places.  i scribbled on a piece of paper a quote from the flyleaf of that book and it has stayed with me. i have carried it with me all these years -- sometimes in journal, sometimes in bible, sometimes in my wallet.  at some point in college, the paper started to tear and i had to rewrite it, but i still carry that quote.

"far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.  
i may not reach them, but i can look up and see their beauty, 
believe in them, and try to follow where they lead."  ~ louisa may alcott

it is a good thing to carry quotes in your pocket.  this week my 6th grader, sarah, will begin reading little women in her class.  i seriously might have to fight off the urge to sneak into the back of the classroom and listen.  regardless, i'll copy this quote for her. i think i'll copy it for all my daughters to carry.
in moonlight or in sunshine or in our stormy kitchens, it makes no difference, we can carry and we can reach and we can dream.