look what the cat dragged in (welcome back, death & moving)

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Well, well, well……look who finally decided to write again (over three months later.)

My absence is well-founded, I promise. As I shared in the previous post, we traded coasts and in the last three months we packed up our family home, said goodbye to loved ones, and set off for the country.

So much has happened and while I desire to chronicle it in sufficient detail, my sad excuse for a nightstand journal (and Instagram) will have to do. Without sharing every single moment and emotion, I’ll say that it’s been a whirlwind, but a remarkable one. Change on this scale is never without heartache – the old refrain goes that when something new begins, something has to end (or something like that). It’s true, you know. We had many goodbyes to say and many memories to release from our grip. Everyone says that you’ll always have the memories but what they don’t say is that many memories are dependent on location and current circumstance. Sure, they will always live on in your mind and heart, but some things just feel more alive when you are still close to the people and places with which they occurred. Of course you always have them, but they do change. Trust me.

Leaving everything you know is really hard. And really good. There is so much to learn that you can’t possibly predict or hope for. You just let it wash over you. If you resist, the story turns contrived and fake.  I’m glad for the change and know that I will never, ever regret this adventure. All of it has taught me so much about myself and others.

I think everyone should be forced to move away at least once in their lifetime. It’s good for your soul, good for your marriage, good for your children, and good for your faith.

At least, that’s my opinion, with which I know many would disagree.

A month after we arrived on Virginia soil, our beloved dog Molly died. She had been with our family for close to 15 years and she was such a part of us. It’s funny….I never understood the emotions that people displayed, when their pets passed, until Molly left us. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I recalled a memory from my childhood that had been hidden in the recesses of my mind, for decades.

When I was about 8 (approximately the age of my middle child), I was left at the neighbors home for the afternoon. My parents came back to pick me up, both with blotchy, red faces and tear stained collars. I still remember what my mom’s skin look liked – spotted and bizarrely puffy. They had been crying. Both had just stood in the veterinarian’s office where they put down their beloved dog, Boaz. He had been with them since the beginning of their marriage, and the time had come. I remember, as a young child, thinking their response was so overly dramatic and stunning. It was a dog!

Fast forward 30 years and Sean and I (and all the girls) stood on the back of our property, as Sean dug a hole large enough for the body of our sweet, golden labrador. She was wrapped in a cream sheet, with a bandage around her leg, protecting where they had put the lethal injections. She laid there still warm and with a look of serenity. We pet her and Sean lifted her into the hole and followed with gently sprinkling dark red, Virginia soil on her body. Tears bubble just typing this. I felt ill.

My face was red, blotchy and puffy…. just like my mother’s had been, so many years ago.

It’s not just a pet. It’s a memory. It’s a season of marriage, of life. It’s gone. Just like the reality that we are no longer a “young married” couple with our sweet puppy…..we are older. She was older. We have moved on. Nothing is the same.

And it has been ridiculously embarrassing how difficult it has been to look for her (still) each day, or catch myself saving leftovers for her. She’s gone and it’s weird…. just \a reminder that live moves on. You can’t stop it or slow it. It just goes and you’re here for all of it….whether you like it or not.

We realized that not one of our girls know any life without Molly. She’s always been around and we underestimated how difficult it would be for each of them individually. One of my girls is still crying on a near daily basis – always spontaneously. Molly left a huge hole in our lives. In my effort to allow them to feel anything and everything they want to (with Type A personalities we can often not allow much time for emotion – MUST MOVE ON AND GET BACK TO NORMAL! THINGS TO DO!) I introduced them to my two favorite children’s books relating to death and mourning. Both THIS book and THIS book have touched me, are simple, and give kids space to feel very real sadness. They are good for the soul. Neither are able to be read without real tears, even two weeks after her passing. I recommend them to anyone who finds themselves in the same place we are in.

In every difficult thing, there is beautiful light, and things to be learned. Sean loves to remind us all of God’s great timing. Molly could have easily passed in Long Beach, making the transition to Virginia a little harder – never having her be a part of this great journey our family took together. No, he allowed Molly to make the trip all the way out here and enjoy the hills, land and all that our small farm offers. She spent the twilight of her life in a glorious cacophony of barking at birds and running around after small chicks as they chirped uncontrollably. She was so happy here. She had a new resurgence of energy, that undoubtedly was gifted by this unique change in atmosphere.

It was a perfect ending to the long life of a perfect pet.

flicker in the dark // the innocent child

I was struck by something last evening. It so profoundly moved me that I spent the entire evening (well into the wee hours of the night) thinking about it. How on earth it hadn’t astonished me hundreds of times prior, I’ll never understand. Conceptually, I know this idea, and I even write about it. Share the concept with my friends, and encourage the very cultivation of it within our home. And yet, it took a specific moment to send an electric charge of recognition throughout my mind and body.

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Last night, I witnessed and acutely understood the mind-blowing and intense brilliance of my children’s innocence. 

Without divulging the entirety of the conversation, I’ll share that, last night, Kensington learned what a miscarriage is. Sean had bought a large pot and a succulent for each child we’ve had together. As he was potting it, Kensington asked what the “other” small succulent was for. He answered, “That symbolizes the baby that mom and I lost.” She had the face of complete bewilderment. I instantly realized we had never explained it to her. Why? I really don’t know. Possibly because I don’t like talking about my pain, but I’ve gotten much better at that in the last few years, so I’m not all together sure, but there it was. Sean gave a very simple explanation that some babies simply stop growing – their heart stops – and they are gone.

I will never, ever forget her eyes. She went from innocence to knowing. In fifteen seconds flat, she knew something, a dark thing, that she will never not know. She instantly burst into tears, which I didn’t expect. She apologized over and over again to us. That it happened, that she feels bad for wondering what it would be like to have an older sibling, and back to apologizing. My heart broke for her new understanding, because it’s just one step closer to her entering into this world where us adults reside, (and have grown quite accustomed to, by the way.) She’s had that same look in her eyes when she learned about slavery. When I had to explain the procedures and actions they are to take if someone tried to take them. When we explained to them why foster children need homes.

That broken, glassy-eyed stare of recognition. They take one more step toward dark.

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We do live in a dark and depraved world and to accept anything but that fact is willful negligence. It’s why Christ came to save. If we were clean, there would be no need, but we are a creation that is eating itself from the inside out. There are beautiful strands of grace and joy, of course, but this place is scary. This place needs a Savior. I think we, as adults, forget how dark things are. But one look in my eldest’s eyes reminded me of the vast gloom.

And my girls don’t know it yet….at least not much of it.

When I saw her face last night It was like an electric shock zapped me. I thought,

“Oh my gosh. The innocence of a child is remarkable. Simply brilliant. It’s the still remaining light in the somber overcast.

It almost steals my breathe just thinking about it, as I write. It is something that is inherent in each little being, and can be gone in a literal second. Stolen, never to be replaced. My girls walk around still believing in good, lovely, and delightful things. They talk to stuffed animals and dance awkwardly in front of friends because WHO CARES?! To think someone might care is to acknowledge at some point, someone is going to judge you based on something ridiculous. They ask important questions and come to luminous conclusions because nothing is at stake with them – except, that is, the truth. They have no phones or way to contact their friends, so when they see them, they are all in. They laugh and play and then shriek in horror when it’s time to go, because they can’t text them 10 seconds later. They don’t try to do good things because they’re going to post about it, or start the next non-profit. They just live.

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My girls don’t know what pornography is.

Or sex.

Or human trafficking.

Or illicit hatred.

Or corporate greed.

Or adultery.

Or domestic abuse.

They just wake up, eat cereal, learn, read, run and play, get a consequence for talking back, do cartwheels in the front yard, yell across the street to their friends, talk about their favorite ice cream flavor, say their prayers, go to bed and sleep. Wake up, repeat.

Stop and think for just one second about your child’s innocence. Really, really think about it. The glorious gift they have right now of not knowing.

Because of this not knowing, their lives are so so small.

But because of this not knowing, their lives are so so much bigger than ours.

It won’t always be, but please Lord, please let it be for awhile longer.

this is parenting // this is life now

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Edited to add:

Within 12 hours of writing this post, I found out that a dear friend lost her father and a friend of the family had passed. Within the last few months, Sean and I have watched people we know lose their battle to cancer, be diagnosed with debilitating disease, or walk through dark trials of losing children, coming up short with finances or facing fears. Within the last few years, Sean and I have walked through some really difficult life circumstances alongside many of our best of friends, managing to deal with their own hardships. Why do I share this? Because it adds an additional layer of deep richness to the following post. While we are parenting, we are still living life. The good, the bad and the incredibly painful. And the only way to walk through it, plainly stated, is to walk right through it.

Hand in hand with your children. Your spouse. And know the Lord is doing something. Something much larger than we could imagine.

***

I’m laying in bed, at 4:45pm, with my three year old. She has bilateral ear and throat infections and is generally miserable. She only wants mommy. The other two are downstairs watching television, which I hate because I often feel guilty about their “screen time” (thanks, 2010-2018 parenting blog posts+case studies) and there is laundry/dishes/homeschool prep that needs getting to. So much laundry.

But here I lay, watching Bubble Guppies (her choice, not mine) because it’s all that keeps her from grabbing her ear and shrieking (not an exaggeration) in pain. She’s irritated that I’m typing and not watching, but I haven’t sat once today and had, once upon a time in 2017, told myself I would write more frequently, in 2018. Which has been going just as I expected.

This is motherhood.

Parenting has so many shapes, sub-divisions, and emotions. I don’t even have time to feel like I’ve figured something out, before I start to feel confused again. It’s not always a bad confusion – it’s more like being a mathematician, and being handed a complicated algorithm, and asked to trace its origin {can you tell I am extremely inept with math, by that example?} You enjoy the process because you’re a mathematician, after all. But, it’s challenging, and the second you’ve solved something, another “something” arises.

From decoding the range of emotions that pre-adolescent females are discovering, to explaining why some relationships flourish while others wither, to navigating anxiety, anger, compulsions or sin….parenting is overwhelming.

Those descriptions could, at first glance, seem like they merit complaint or that I’m only characterizing the negative parts of parenting, but it’s not meant to be that way. To raise children is a gift that I couldn’t possibly take for granted. I’m glad to walk through confusion, life-altering happiness, and deep grief with my husband and children. I would have it no other way, although I’m sure if someone explained to me the in’s and out’s of parenthood, prior to giving birth….I might have declined, initially.

There’s no way of understanding until you’re inside the vortex and that’s a very good thing. We are selfish by nature and parenthood is about giving, in large part, and I’m convinced we wouldn’t choose it on most days – if you didn’t understand the amazing give-back and refining it pushes you towards. God has used parenting to expose me, leave me floundering and bring me unparalleled purpose. Being a parent has also elevated my affection for my husband – marrying him and being linked to him, for the rest of my life, is the greatest joy I will have this side of heaven. I never have enough words to describe my deep pleasure with the covenant of marriage. Being allowed to raise children is often something I am amazed by – why on earth would I be permitted to guide, raise and educated small souls?! It’s quite a gift.

With all these things said (and many others, in posts from the past), I wish to express the beautiful and generally exhausting task of being a parent, being a faithful family member, and being a generous wife.

But man, it’s hard.

I’m constantly questioning if I’m “doing it right”. I wonder if I’m going to screw my kids up by homeschooling, if I’m too strict, if I’m too loose, if I don’t teach them enough about God, if I preach too much at them, if I do too many Bible lessons and not enough STEM projects. I think about how much their reading vs. playing outdoors, or maybe the food I’m feeding them is going to eventually eat their insides and leave them with a disease since it’s not all organic. I yell too much! I don’t yell enough. I’m not their friend enough. I spend too much time with them! I go on too many date nights with my husband. I’m raising entitled kids in SoCal and they aren’t exposed to the real world! They are too exposed, aren’t they?! I’m too protective! I’m not protective enough! I don’t let them express themselves enough, oh my gosh I let them express themselves way too much STOP IT KIDS. And the worst fear of all. The one that keeps me up at night, often.

What if my children never really know the Lord? What if…..

It’s a hamster wheel of revolving emotions. And I’m convinced it never, ever stops. Parents just get better at not freaking out quite as much, the older their children get. They’re still grappling with it because you never stop being a parent.

Your kids may leave you, hate you, love you, respect you, or never want your opinion.

But that will never change the fact that you’re still the human that bathed them, changed them, reassured them and gave them the tools for adulthood.

That is why it’s so exhausting.

I can deal with ear infections alllll day long because it’s temporary. But the rest of being a mother – the realizing that the Lord instructs me how to act virtuously towards my children, yet one day they will leave and may never understand anything Sean and I did – that’s my stumbling block. Because I am not perfect and I fail (often) and have to ask forgiveness, from my children. I only have a few years and man…..I hope I’m doing enough. I hate the vulnerability of it, but there isn’t another way to be. In the end, I’m simply an instrument to be used in their formation. An instrument to draw them closer to Him, His truth and His virtue. That’s it.

God is teaching me. He’s humbling me. He’s breaking me, and He is lifting my head.

This is parenting. This is motherhood. This is the most beautiful season of life. Right now.

motherhood // fuzzy brain

 

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I’ve started this post 13 times.

I have so many thoughts swirling in my brain about motherhood, marriage, and life. There is no shortage of philosophical and theological self-discussions ruminating in my mind. Often, I lay awake at night and just think. I can’t turn it off.

But here I am, trying to formulate a coherent thought to share….and it won’t come. I have the entire house, kid free, for an hour and a half and….nothing.

I spend almost every waking hour (and often the sleeping ones too) with my children and the one quiet moment I get….

All I can manage to do is walk around and think, “It sure is quiet here without them.”

Ah, motherhood.

words from Bert // slipping like sand

I’ve often been questioned why my favorite movie is Mary Poppins. People have bizarrely given reasons why it’s not as fantastic as I believe it to be.

For starters, it’s a childrens movie (or is it?)

It’s old (how is that even a reason to disqualify a film?)

The storyline is too simplistic and predictable (no.)

They mix barnyard animal cartoons and real life people in that one scene (I kinda get that one…)

In the end, I believe the profound bits of PL Travers unique tale wait for those who seek it out. Read any of her books, (or her biography) and you’ll find there’s much more than meets the eye.

Every time I see the following scene, it’s like a gut punch. As easily as Mr. Banks might be criticized for having his priorities out of line, if you’ve seen the film, we might all agree there are moments we are a bit too much like him.

There’s no time for that.

Childhood, like sand, is slipping.