Fear and the cross

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset“He will provide the way and the means, such as you could never have imagined. Leave it all to Him, let go of yourself, lose yourself on the cross, and you will find yourself entirely.” (St. Catherine of Siena)

I count the children in the pew a few rows up. Seven. Wait, the mother is wearing one too. That makes eight. A few rows ahead, six. I watch another mother chase her son to the back of the church only to realize he has, somehow, already made a full circle back to the front and is dashing across the room in sight of the whole congregation.

My own toddler walks and falls, walks and falls, in the back of the church. She leans against the windows of the cry room and bumps her head on the glass—purposely—again and again. We go out into the lobby instead where she inevitably finds the staircase hidden away in a dark corner. The baby in my womb kicks and somersaults and suddenly I can hardly breathe, let alone lift a protesting, back-arching fifteen month old because I just can’t imagine chasing her up the stairs. A mom herds three children out of the doors and settles onto a bench. I feel exhausted just looking at her.

Is this my foreseeable future? I am so tired, and I only have one. Is this where I am asked to attend the Supper of the Lamb for the next countless years of my life, on the other side of heavy doors, listening to the words of consecration through lobby speakers?

Lamb of God, have mercy on us.

I kneel and feel dread sink into my heart. I love my babies. I love this one that I know, and this one that I have yet to come to know. But I am afraid. Afraid of what will be asked of me in the future. Afraid of more kids, and then even more kids. Afraid that my life will be full of herding children in and out of mass, the grocery store, the (large) van, the bathroom, the house, the park. I know there is beauty in all of that, I do. I know that life enlarges love, and with each new life, there is only more love; but sometimes it is hard to remember.

Is this really what you are going to ask of me, Lord?

I lift my eyes, and there is the Lord, hanging on a cross. This is what He asks of me. Sacrifice. Self-gift. Suffering. Love. It does not matter, and I need not fear, the means by which he brings me to the cross with Him. I fear the means that He will use to bring me to Himself. How silly that sounds when I realize it. In the end we are all asked to join Him in this act of dying, each in different ways, all of them painful and hard but ultimately life-giving. And these little ones are not keeping me from praying. They are prayer. They are the Lord bringing me to Himself; not in silence and contemplation, but in sacrifice and in an offering of my life for theirs.

He desires only union with me. Communion. Oneness. Love. Divine life. Sonship. And He offers me the means to that end. I need not fear them.

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

Daily (I)

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Now that I have a home with sunlight and space, my succulent aspirations—and slight gardening aspirations—are emerging. I have a big pot of herbs on my front porch and little succulents are making their way around different spaces in our home. Edith especially enjoyed helping me pick out a few.

Edith continues to grow and change very quickly. She is attempting to say new words every day. Her repertoire includes “kaka” (water), “rafe” (giraffe), “duck,” “kack” (quack), “chee” (cheese), “ba” (ball), “bubba” (bubbles), and “hi!” (said very enthusiastically). She has the sign language for please down and is often seen vigorously rubbing her chest. Many times we don’t know what she’s asking for and if we ask her what she wants she will just do the sign even more intently. She just began nodding her head “yes” and understands when we ask her if she wants to go outside, upstairs, or for a ride. Often she has no idea what she is saying yes or no to, but it is quite cute. She also just started trying to sing along with us, so I have been trying to pull out those rusty children’s songs. Thankfully Jesus Loves Me is still firmly in my mind, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember This Little Light of Mine besides that one line.

We also have a water baby on our hands. She loved a brief stop at the campus beach along one of the lakes. She arrived in her little outfit from the morning (we had plans just to look), but as soon as she saw the “kaka!” her enthusiasm was too much and before long she was crawling and splashing in the water. She left with nothing on.

We are loving the Michigan cherries—there were never cherries in Durham, so it is awfully hard to turn them down whenever I see them. There are daily stained outfits thanks to the juice, but I almost relish the chance to simply run to the basement and pop in a load of wash. The cherries also remind me of home.

Settling in to South Bend

As we are far from family and many friends and beginning a new chapter, I thought I might use my blog to offer updates along with the occasional (read: infrequent) piece of writing.

Our summer so far has been a whirlwind of traveling for Edith and I, packing, driving 12 hours north, unpacking, and settling into our very own little house. There is something very strange about one-way drives and simply driving away from a place that has been home to us for two years. Edith and I began the drive from Durham at 5 a.m. so I feel like I hardly had a chance to say goodbye as we drove down the dark streets. In many ways, I feel like we were driving away from one stage of our lives—still a young, married couple with one kid—and driving into a new stage, one of adulthood that includes owning a home, having multiple children, a lawn mower, a water softener, and a washer and dryer in the basement. That last part I am not complaining about one bit; I didn’t even think to say goodbye to the laundry facility at our North Carolina apartment.

We love our new little house and are slowly settling in. As Travis said last night, the downstairs just looks like we’re messy people now instead of like we just moved in. The upstairs, however, definitely look like we finished moving in a few minutes ago. I likely overdid it and pushed myself too hard in the last few days so we are going to take the upstairs a bit more slowly—one clothing tub at a time. And I will spend a lot more time on the couch.

Our first dinner, just the three of us, in our generally unpacked and organized dining room, was tacos and corn and black bean salad, the latter of which Edith couldn’t eat fast enough. She is a girl after my own heart and I see a lot of corn and black beans in these future summer months.

South Bend is certainly a down-grade from Durham and I can’t say I have found much charm yet. We haven’t been many places, but I return from every drive a bit disappointed by just how ugly and run-down this city is. Our street, however, is lovely and our neighbors very kind people. One already mowed our yard for us. The farmers market, too, will afford many happy times and Notre Dame’s campus is a beautiful place to go for walks. There is a beach on one of the campus lakes that I am hoping to frequent with Edith. She spent most of her fourth of July cookout playing in the dirt so I think sand might be a big hit.

We are happy to have the move behind us, and happy to be here.

Making the world more beautiful

miss-rumphius-inside5Recently, my beloved Hillsdale College has produced beautiful marketing videos, many of them highlighting alumnae doing remarkable things. It is exciting to see classmates of mine who are working for the Denver Broncos or producing for Fox News. They are polished, driven, and remarkably successful. I love seeing the amazing work of my friends and the passion that they have about their work.

But when I watch the promotions, I don’t only feel pride at the accomplishments of my friends. I feel something else, too. A twinge of jealousy, perhaps. An underlying doubt, certainly.

My life is not one that will sell my alma mater to prospective students. My teaching job and my days of raising a child, loving a husband, and doing the dishes at 9 p.m. every night aren’t necessarily polished, marketable sorts of things.

I believe in the goodness of motherhood. I know the goodness of family. I believe that what I am doing is important, and meaningful, but saying those words is not always easy to believe.

What am I doing, I wonder? Ought I be more ambitious? My degree, my journalism experience, my Washington Times internship, all formed me and made me but in light of those, my life now sometimes feels as if I am not doing anything.

These feelings come and go, never settled, although usually quieted by the knowledge—but perhaps a less solid conviction—that what I am doing matters. I tell myself that often, hoping that I will learn to believe it.

But tonight Edith was sitting on my lap, calming down before bed. We were reading Miss Rumphius, one of my beloved childhood books and one that I hope she will come to love, too.

Miss Rumphius is a librarian, a traveler, a polished, worldly woman who sees remarkable places and meets fascinating people and has many stories to tell her grandnieces and nephews as she grows older. She moves to the seaside and has her own sweet little cottage by the sea. But one thing in her life remains undone, the most important task her grandfather gave her, “the most difficult thing of all!”: making the world more beautiful.

Miss Rumphius plants lupines by her house and the wind scatters the seeds into the fields and hills by her home. She discovers the flowers far from her little spot of coast the next spring and finally knows how she will make the world more beautiful.

So she plants lupines all over the town. She walks the roads and the fields, past children laughing and calling her That Crazy Old Lady, around the churchyard and by the school, throwing seeds as she walks. And the lupines bloom and the town glows and the children call her the Lupine Lady.

As I sat there with my sweet little girl on my lap—which is quickly growing smaller as my belly grows larger with another new life—I heard the words in a new way. You must do something to make the world more beautiful. And I realized: this, right now, is how I am asked to make the world more beautiful.

I am not asked to do something remarkable or noteworthy or publishable. That doesn’t mean those things are wrong, or less worthwhile. But it does mean that we are all asked to do more than only those things.

We are asked to make the world more beautiful, each of us in our own different ways. This task is ultimately the most difficult and the most important thing we can do.

And this little girl and this new baby and this husband and this grad school wife life right now, these are mine. Perhaps one day they will include writing a book or getting another degree. But that is not now.

So I will work, and pray, and hope that my small efforts are even now and will one day make the world more beautiful.

One year

Edith was born with the sunrise.

I write that sentence and giggle to myself. It sounds so idealistic, a bit too sappy sweet, just the way you might think a rose-colored-glasses sort of person would look back at the moment she became a mother. But it’s true.

I labored through the night, in the dark, with only a string of Christmas lights providing a glow in the corner. I walked and squatted and leaned over an exercise ball through the late hours of night and then early morning hours. I ate a banana, tried to forget about the pain and focus only on the task in front of me, even laughed with my mom through a few contractions.

I pushed in the dark, my eyes closed most of the time, drifting in and out of subconscious, exhausted sleep for a minute here, a minute there. And then there was a baby, a little person placed on my chest. They opened the blinds and the sun was rising over the tops of the buildings, filling our seven-story room with new light, new life. There was a sense of relief, but more than that: the world was new. There had never been a morning like this before. There had never before been a morning with this firstborn Lacy daughter in the world.

I asked over and over again what the baby was. The midwife forgot to announce it and must have assumed we already knew.

“It’s a girl!” I finally heard.

My mother said the obvious shock on my face was funny to see.

So we named her Edith Grace and suddenly our family was three.

It is a strange feeling, looking back on a day—a minute in time, really—that changed our entire lives. The memories hint at pain and blood and ice packs and eyelids that literally, not just figuratively, would not stay open; but they are not those things. They are of resting in the hospital bed with a sleeping baby on my chest, of Dad changing his first diaper, of the first night with a baby in the crib next to the bed, looking at her, wondering how I was going to be able to keep another human alive.

And although the memories continue, sadly they are not as distinct. They are memories of getting to know this little girl, of learning her and studying her and praying desperately every night for a little more sleep.

We go for walks, run errands together, play on the living room floor, read the first three pages of a book before she is off again looking for something new. And every night we are relieved to crawl into bed, hoping for a few hours of sleep before she reminds us that she’s still here, just down the hall, too close for us to fall back asleep. The days look much like this, over and over again. But the delight that we found in this life, in her life, is nothing we could have expected and nothing we have ever known before.

I am often struck by just how useless Edith is. We gain nothing considered of profit through her. She doesn’t do my dishes. She doesn’t grade my students’ papers for me. She doesn’t even feed herself at this point. But precisely because she has no use assigned to her by this world, therein lies her value.

But God chose what is foolish in the world in the world to shame the wise…

Two 24 year-olds with a few thousands to their name, two years to go in graduate school, two jobs, college debt, and many question marks ahead of them have a baby. Edith is our foolishness, our irresponsibility, our inconvenience, our hospital bills, our new budget category.

But she is our glory, our wonder, our laughter, our amazement, our joy, our love. She gives life. She is life.

And it is very good.

Happy almost birthday, little girl.

Becoming a mom: in 30(ish) photos

Being a mom—being Edith’s mom—has been delightful and something that I have been documenting since August 2014. And I think those photos tell a fun little story.

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It begins with feeling like you have such a big belly and then continues to prove that the first time you thought you were showing, you really weren’t.
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And that belly becomes even bigger. This is four days before Miss E came along.
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And then the baby comes and the magic of new life overcomes your little world and all is suddenly changed.
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And that first night, you lie in bed and wonder how this happened and how you are going to keep this little one alive and will you ever sleep again?
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And then she sleeps on you—and the magic is new every few hours.
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And you go on your first outing together and feel especially proud.
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But feel prouder still when you figure out how to wear your baby and suddenly have two hands and the ability to make dinner while keeping baby happy, quiet, and sleeping.
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Because she truly doesn’t sleep much. #mylife
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And sometimes she is all smiles.
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But she also looks like this for what feels like a lot of the time.
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And she gets older and you discover how to smile and play and laugh together.
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You teach her about lying out under the blue sky.
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About cooking.
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About how some nights you just need to eat your dinner on the floor while watching cooking shows on YouTube.

 

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About selfies.
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About music.
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About baseball caps and mornings spent in bed.
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And about chocolate-covered pretzels.
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And there are many times she still looks like this.
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But more often than not, she is pure wonder and delight and that is exactly how we feel about her.

The lion’s tears

I felt a strong urge to write when Edith came, but so far I only have words here and there; fragmented parts of things sitting in different documents, none of them actually becoming a cohesive piece of words and thoughts. I have always found letter writing to be an easier way for me to use words, so I took to writing letters to Edith. Here is number two.

“But please, please—won’t you—can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?” Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at his face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.
(The Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis)

d55825622573dc21cdfaaca849453ebcDear Edith,

This is probably the seventh or eighth time this year that I have read or heard The Magician’s Nephew. Your dad and I always listen to it on long car rides and my fourth graders and I are reading through it now. Every time I read it, there is something new to discover. Remember that. The best books are the ones that seem new to you every time you read them.

This passage almost made me cry when I read it last week. Aslan has asked Digory to go on an important journey that will preserve the future of Narnia. Digory’s mother is back in our world, near death, and Digory thinks that Aslan is the last chance for help. His despair is growing, and all this time he is looking down at the lion’s paws and the huge claws on them.

Sometimes life’s circumstances feel fierce and sharp and unrelenting. Often these moments can make us feel as if God is a God with claws and sharp teeth and that life hurts; that He hurts. It is true, of course, that the pain will always yield a good outcome for those who believe. It is true, of course, that your suffering is not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed. But it is one thing to hear and understand those words and another to believe them and find there solace and comfort. It can—and must—be done. But there is something more that He gives you in those painful times.

His face with tears in His eyes.

Digory feels the sting and the pain of the lion’s great claws, but when he looks up, he sees there that Aslan cares deeply. That he feels something for Digory, something for his mother. That he is not just a powerful creature with authority and strength. He sympathizes and he feels and he weeps with his children. Keep your heart soft always so that you can see His tears and believe that He shares in your pain.

The suffering is for your good, yes. It is preparing you for a greater vision of the Lord Himself, and it will be better that you suffer than not. But in the moments when those sound like nice phrases that you know you ought to believe more than you do, look up at his face and allow Him to weep with you.

“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know.”