Hearts in the Snow

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True love, is cancelling Valentine dinner at your favourite restaurant to sit together and kiss hot child skin, listen to coughs that sound like harbour seals. True love is taking your turn staying home from work, of getting one more cup of juice in the night, of laying close, sitting still, tickling arms. True love is doing the hard work of staying...of letting real life creep on all the edges of our tired thirties and choosing each other anyways.

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True love is after days of being so many things to so many people, we slow the pace. At the grocery store the other night we were hustling a little as the last flakes of snow fell. When I looked down at her, the big flakes had stuck in her huge eye lashes, her eyes closed, her chin tilted to heaven, her tongue out catching flakes. I stopped. I had nowhere I would rather be then RIGHT IN THAT MOMENT. I trace out a heart with my feet in the snow, she opened her eyes, her face lit up, she makes a flower in the snow for me. True love is in the tiny moments…when we slow to the pace of little feet, take the time to let them stomp the cadence of a beating heart.

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Our days are full. I laughed at midnight last night when I was just starting to get somewhere on a paper due today. Working woman, hockey mom, dance mom, taught an evening workshop and THEN sat down to write. So many hats. I don’t mind being busy now and then, I get charged up on things, so excited to be a part of wonderful strands of life that God weaves together to make something beautiful out of our life. True love is never an outcome…it is the steady pace of goodness. 

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He gets delirious the moment his body temperature inches over normal. Always panic and something scary. I pull him off that bunk, down into my arms, his limbs long over me. I rest my hand on his chest, heart is beating fast and hard, so near to me it feels it might burst through thin fleshTrue love is the way of stretching beyond yourself, of inconvenience.

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True love is scattering keys to the captives, the speaking of hope when hope seems lost, the patience to try again. True love is the kindness in the face of all the worlds cruelty. Love is in the humility, the servant life of laying all the plans aside for the sake of another. Love is in the perseverance, the generosity.

Love is in the passion. Sure. But that is the easy part.

Love is the minuscule and marvelously small acts of a life layed down…that is what makes it true.

Wherever you are today…single or in a relationship…what is it you can do to ensure your life is marked by these?

Ornament (Advent #2)

(A repost from the archives)

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There you go running and tossing and breaking and shattering and I gotta tell you, the way I imagined this day to go is just not what it turned out to be. I wait for Christmas Tree day. I imagine us, in the woods with all our friends, sipping hot drinks, eating too many sweets, finding the perfect tree, taking photos in front of it. Instead, and suddenly, chill settles into little fingers, someone has to poop.

I want things to run on rails. This family, I want it to run like a well oiled machine. Pumping out symmetry, clean edges, pictures perfect. I want this night, gathered round the tree, decorations to hang, carols on, me in plaid, in scarf. I want you smiling demurely, hanging the ornaments gentle. I want mistletoe and candle light, but you keep blowing them out.

All my talk about otherwise? I still want our family to look like an ornament. Sparkled and spackled and flawless. And instead, God keeps whispering something about being an instrument: of peace, of reconciliation. He keeps on whispering about how very broken we all are, how he has plans for us this season it is true, but none of those plans involve our perfection. Just His. Made flesh. Because of our brokenness, like the nutcracker I glue back together (sorry Michelle…). He says “That is the point of this thing child. Relax”. Look for the cracks, the fissures, lean into them. Bring that peace on earth, be it.

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I sigh, pull you into my lap and we read quiet and slow and we start our advent readings and you seem to get it. And I do too. The beauty is right here. In your soft skin (because you took off the coordinated outfits I put you in), in the soft glint of Christmas lights I hung (though they are clumped, and cluttered), in the pine boughs on my mantle (that snapped off as we dragged the tree in the door).

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.-St. Francis of Assisi 

Rose coloured glasses: Five Minutes on the prompt ‘Ordinary’

The crows had gathered this morning. Encircling that white tailed corpse on the road. Its throat ripped out by the speeding car. A murder of crows there, squawking from a sign, from the sky, from the belly of the doe. All I could think was, are they an omen for me?

Of course not. I don’t believe in such things.

And Yet.

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Do you see that? The way her hair is glinting in the setting sun? They way their games almost glow in the purple? His face nearly sparkling?  There despite the filthy window, did you notice the sun setting down in pinks and purple splendor? Despite your exhaustion and your frustration, can’t you see the holiness of this moment? The way we are all holding onto life and death with the same weak hands. The way our control of it all is so illusionary. The way, those old crows could be waiting for me just outside?

These ordinary moments are all we got friend. There is no purpose greater than the one you are walking now. No theology preached from any pulpit that doesn’t apply in this absolutely ordinary moment.

So you can call me an idealist if you want to. The way I always see the world as a great romance, but I don’t mind. Even if the pink in my eyes is really from this bone weary mamma season, I’ll pretend it is the reflection of this extraordinary sunset, lighting up their faces with all the splendor of creation. I will keep these rose-coloured glasses on all day long, recognizing that there is no such thing as ordinary. That this moment right now may be the Holiest thing I every touch.

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A Mother Letter: On the Peace

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Dear O,

When you asked for a pistol for you birthday it got me thinking.  Being your mamma always makes me ask the hard questions. This time I wondered about THE PEACE and how we are living it.

You said you  “want to shoot down a tree and to shoot down the power lines”, and there isn’t anything wrong with this, hear that clear. It just made me stop and think for a moment. Little boys love guns and wars and battles of all kinds. My daddy said no guns at our house but we found ways to make our own, turn the garden implements to battle staffs for our ninja club. Children find ways to fight. I just want you to know that you are part of a better way.

You need to know that your daddy and I? We believe the Peace.

You can watch us. The way we do the hard work of getting along, of asking the questions. Peace making isn’t about hiding my boy. It has taken your daddy and I a long time to learn this. To believe that making the peace isn’t about pretending we don’t hear when a word is spoken against us. No boy. That is for cowards. We walk into James 3, believing that the wise are the peacemakers, the humble. You can watch us do our best to bow our knees, to admit our mistakes, but not to cower under it. We want you to learn to use your words, the power of them to disarm or to wage war. The ways that we can use our social capital to build another up or to tear them down. We are still learning this, I will always be the last to call myself wise.

I want you to watch the  counter cultural ways of your daddy. The ways he dampens the power of the empire of pop culture by pointing out its absurdity. The way he points to our humble King every chance he gets. The way he believes, that even while he is turning a kingdom upside down he can do it in peaceful ways. That being a cultural subversive doesn’t mean you throw rocks, but that you take those rocks and build something beautiful instead. The way he does the hardest work of discussions he hates…because being brave enough to make peace doesn’t mean he likes it. No your daddy would much rather live the Peace than make it. You can watch him please…the way his rage doesn’t exist. The way the Spirit flourishes there.

You can watch me too I guess. Watch the way I learn to tame the flesh in me. You know this temper can flare up hot, the way the fuse can just be too short. I want you to watch the ways the Spirit can dampen even a wick like that. I’m learning my boy, I’m learning.

We are going to help you fan this spirit in your own heart. What you need to do to care for your soul to reveal this Spirit in you. The ways you will need space and time like your mamma, the way you aren’t going to be able to rush. You need to know that it takes more bravery to stand up and do the hard work of making the peace than it does to submit to the rage. It takes more strength to bend the weapons into implements of peace. You have these in abundance…I just watched you face the wrath of baby sister with dignity, turning her fists away and never once raising yours. I am achingly proud of you.

Grace and Peace,

Mamma

PS: Peace chasers watch this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWH4R0_-4hg

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving,considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

James 3:17

Dear E: On the Occasion you complete preschool and I celebrate your ‘muchness’

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Dearest E (on the occasion you complete preschool and I celebrate your ‘muchness’),

Just now, we were out in the rain. Our hair, blowing wild as daddy drove us up into the woods. You tipped your face into the rain, let the drops fall into your magnificent eye-lashes, onto your porcelain skinned face. We hit a bump going a bit too fast and I gasped and clung to you, I nearly let you launch out the back. But you? You laughed so hard you couldn’t breathe and asked daddy to go back over it. He of course obliged you. You broke into song. And I marvelled at your ‘muchness’.

You who is the first in the water, the last one out.

You who laughs the loudest and the longest.

You who shouts with passion and bosses your brother with extravagant ferocity (ok…this isn’t my favourite part of your muchness).

You who knows exactly what you want.

You with the dynamic mind that learns things before we teach you. You with the imagination of a magnificient story teller.

You do everything in extreme and excess. And I hope you never try to shrink yourself to fit into someone elses mold of feminine. You are so much more.

This week I went to a conference and a Nigerian woman took the stage and then she took my breath. She spoke with so much grace and authority. And I must tell you, there is something intoxicating about a woman who wears every inch of her flesh, isn’t trying to perpetually shrink. Someone who knows she is more then sex or magazine cliches. 

There was a time not so long ago that I watched a mother parent a little girl that was more like a paper doll than a child. She was wholly pliable; bending to her mothers every whim. There was a split second of envy until you barrelled in with mud on your face and a crooked tiara on your messed up hair. You shouted “Want to  play with me?”. The little girl shook her head, curled into her moms thigh. “Ok. But if you want to we can play princess fairy kitty soft paws”.  I was enthralled by your muchness.

Miss E…I will stand beside you when the world tries to crush you down, tells you your entirely too much and not nearly enough. I love your muchness and I will fight for it. I will point you in the direction you should go and I will watch you run there with reckless courage.  When you are tempted to bend to someone elses version of you, I will make you read this letter again. Remind you, who you are at your core, in your God designed heart.

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Moments

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The lights are low and I sling my four-year old around my hip like an infant. It might be the last time you know, that she nestles that softest cheek into mine, that I can rock her to the drum beat. She closes her eyes when I do, peeks about when she gets bored.

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They watch the sun turn pink on the horizon. My four-year old calls me, she knows when the sun is slipping, when we lose it completely. We all come. There is a space between heaven and earth just there on the horizon. It is the shape of an eye. We see God in it.

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I pop my head back, all I see are pine trees high, star streaked sky.

I breathe deep. Could it be that it is the first time I breathed all day? Of course not. You couldn’t live like that and yet….

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I smell the gasoline, feel the speed, the tress whip past, I trust you more than I trust myself, and I hold on.

We set a fire, the dog attacks the flame, the flying spark. We sit.

We tuck the kids in. I think about what parts of this will feel like home for them. The stellar jays? The woodpecker? The way camp fires smell a day later?

~

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They are fighting again.

It is snowing today. You heard me. Spring break, the man is away and it is snowing… again. The kids have gone rabid and are about one more house day away from someone loosing a hand. And yet, there is beauty here too, when I ignore them long enough, once in a while they compromise, practice empathy, create fantastic adventures. It sounds like Love is growing in their hearts. I see the silhouettes of heroes peeking over their horizons, even when they act more like villans.

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The kitchen tap drips into the unwashed pot. I scrub the toilets. Match the socks. Revel in these ordinaries.

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The man is on a service trip with 137 young people this week. My niece is among them, she is gentle and quiet and so sensitive. I am so proud of her bravery, stepping beyond her usual fences, trying new things. When I see her, love glints in her eyes. Courage is rising. I see it, I get it. We are the same in some ways, I want to shout “There are worse things than failing, trust me, and you are making progress in all the right directions. Keep stepping out…that is where LIFE is. Perfectionism is a vice that keeps you from it”.

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I have been writing. A lot. Not here but elsewhere and I feel flesh on dry bones. I am making sense of senseless things. It might never do anything but fill up a journal with understanding. That is enough.

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I have a new nephew, born yesterday. Pearl Jam ‘Free’ played on the radio the moment scalpel finished, child emerged. There are some things you just cannot plan.

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There is no new thing we are living my friends. Just the old with a new bow on it. Just us, swiftly spinning, holding onto life, to faith, hearing birds sing like it is for the first time. Just life, all its mundane and profound wound tightly into one package, longing to be lived to the FULL.

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Tell me then, what ordinary moment turned Holy on you today?

Linking with Emily and friends…

The Everyday Extra-Ordinaries

It is funny when the sun starts to shine on my funk.

Lent always comes at a good time of year for me, a time when it is EASY to recognize the ways I am broken and to look them square in the face. The Februaries will do that to me. Make me terribly introspective, a little bit oppressed. But lent always leaves me hopeful too. I see the resurrection rising, the way the broken in me meets the fullness of Easter, it is the only true way to WHOLE.

Today all I saw were the signs of hope on the horizon.

It started with my girl. We had a tea party and lemon cookies for breakfast. Sometimes you have to do that. We used the good china, she taught me that they are not cookies when ‘tea party-ing’…they are biscuits then. It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

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Next I had some extra quiet time, E is colouring like a mad woman these days. All day, every day. My Lenten devotional is GOLD so it worked out well for both of us.

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We had a short walk in the woods. The wind whispered what sounded like a song. The icicles were dripping, promising me a far off spring.

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We picked up the boy from school and he picked up his trophy again. Note to all parents: A trophy instead of a goody bag at a party? THE BEST IDEA EVER. He tells everyone he got it ‘from hockey’. He refused to make a wish the other day on account of the fact that he didn’t need to wish, because “I already have this (the trophy)”. The kid hasn’t put it down yet.

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So often the secret to hope is just about lifting up our eyes. Taking your eyes off yourself, your broken ways, the way you missed the mark today. The secret of hope is to focus on the fullness coming, the way you are getting closer each day.

Today, was the sort of day I want to capture and keep somewhere. Somewhere I can open it again when the fog rolls back in, when I look down too long and stumble over my own feet. For when, the miracles of each moment, sink into the dominion of the ordinary.

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What Mamma Did: The Making and the Doing

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She keeps those hands busy this mamma of mine. She loves in action and says more with yeast and flour than others can, even with all of their flowery words. Her love smells like gingerbread, tastes like huckleberry pie.

She clothed me in jumpers, the worlds most extraordinary Halloween costumes and hand stitched quilts.

It was the sick beds and the home remedies and the makeshift oxygen tents.

It was murals on our walls and wooden mouldings carved.

It was every shirt ironed, every field trip attended, every sports event observed.

It was intricately decorated birthday cakes and handmade cards.

The garden was grown, the dough was made, the Christmas bread always baked. It was family meals twice a day at least.

It was the way we watched her love her daddy in his last days, not with poetry and sappy cards but with daily lunch fed, walls decorated, toenails trimmed. I think it was then I understood for the first time, the depths of this expression of love.

It is the language she speaks the dialect we all understand.

It isn’t really a surprise then is it? That if I like working with you I will buy your coffee, bring you baked goods. If you show up at my house and say “I just ate” I really have no idea how to show concern for you. If you have recently birthed a 15 pound baby, I don’t know how to help but to show up with a casserole. It is possible that I only understand your acts of service, your reckless hospitality.

And so. Though I can’t always (read as never) proclaim my love from the roof tops? Thankful that my man understands the sentiment behind a well marinated steak, a breathing bottle of red.

And mamma of mine? I love you so much and I understood every word you ever baked.

Linking with Emily and5-minute-friday-1

What was it your mamma did that made you know you were loved? Something other than the words? Share in the comments?

Putting it all in the ‘be a better mamma vault!

Motherhood…the thinnest place

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I am not the same person I was seven years ago.

It isn’t that I have changed exactly, it is just that weight of motherhood resting on my very core, pushed most of me to the edges, to the extremes.

I am a polarized version of what I once was.

Life seems somehow heavier, sadder, worse. Simultaneously I feel lighter, happier, like the world is full of only beautiful things.

I laugh more than I ever did before but I cry more too. For my babies, for yours, for the babies without a mamma to cry for them.

I did not know I had a temper before they arrived, I couldn’t imagine being capable of child abuse before and now…I can. At the same time, it is even more unfathomable than ever. I am much more gentle than I thought I was, less calloused, less caustic.

I thought I was a patient person before they helped me to find the end of it. And now? They’ve drilled me and my patience runs to wells and depths I wouldn’t have imagined I needed.

I’ve never felt like I’ve failed at anything like I’ve failed these children. Also? I’ve never been so proud of anything I’ve done in my whole life.

Things seemed more complex before my little people arrived. Now loving God and man seems like PLENTY.

My tongue seemed to sharpen equally but paradoxically to the softness of their skin. My heart seemed to grow to accommodate the whole of them.

And then the sweetest part…there in the middle where they weigh on me the heaviest, where I feel like I am near worn through to nothing? That place where things get thin? I’ve seen Jesus there more than I thought would be possible this side of heaven.

And that has been the greatest gift.

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Country Chronicles: Pieces of Memory

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Our kids are four and six. I am acutely aware that the shards of memory they are forming will someday meld together into the lens they will see the world through. And so…

Tonight after dinner, the four of us piled into our orange amphibious vehicle. We took the trail that leads to the secret cabin our neighbor built. I am starting to recognize the shadows that the moon tosses across our path. I don’t jump when they shift like I once did. The shapes of the trees that fall across the trail as we move deeper into the woods, my hair blown wild, I hold my daughter tight. It smells like pine, sounds like stellar jays, I feel safe and wild at the same time.

Will you tell them, if they ask, that we really did venture out in the dead of night? That there was a small white truck with a light on the roof? That we did one day, all four of us, climb on a quad and go for a trek. That…no…sorry E you were not really driving. All those tiny bits of memory will carry our quirky legacy.

We pull out at our favorite place, where the trees all part and the valley opens up and we can catch a glimpse of far and away. The waxing moon holds the sky wide open, the clouds moving fast across it, the city lights miniscule below. Orion’s Belt takes its place low on horizon, we sit for a moment and watch the things that shift, the clouds. The stars that hold still, we count them, all our lucky ones.

We gaze up together, whisper wonder; I thank God, out loud.
I hope they remember the stars someday, my arms on them, Jesus all around. I hope when they feel wind on their faces; they remember freedom, wonder, worship.

Linking up with Emily Wierenga and the happy she is back Emily Freeman