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Monday, December 26, 2011

A Christmas Treasure to Ponder


We can't totally "do Christmas" yet.  We escape to a beach in South Carolina.  A place I have never been.  To make new memories.  Try to avoid some of the old.  I pull aside heavy curtains the first morning to peek at crashing swells pummeling against white sand.  I catch my breath.  I have not seen it since she died.  I spent the last week of her life watching her chase seagulls and splashing in the blue.  Toes in the warm sand and ears held up to shiny shells.  Fortunately, little cries pull me away, and I really have no time alone to contemplate.

Christmas Eve.  We give the girls presents and help them tear paper.  Capture their cuteness with a lens.  Try to freeze the memories in time.  Burn them deep into my mind.    'Oooh mouths' and tiny reaching fingers meet warm cinnamon rolls.  Slobbery kisses and snuggles in bed.  Brush aside the moments of nausea and missing.  Hurry past the toys in stores that she had wanted for Christmas before she died.

Christmas Day.  We pile into the car and wave adios to la playa. Thankful for IHOP brunches on Christmas morning.  And a stroll through beautiful downtown Charleston... another first for me.  Twelve hours later we roll into our driveway.  I find myself hugging a baby and exclaiming that we made it!  We made it home with both of them!  Somehow I am surprised.  Relief washes over me.  We did not come home with bags to unpack and an empty car seat!  I squeeze them tightly.  We are back  from the beach and our cribs are not empty... this time.  I did not even realize this anxiety had piled up so high in me until it was over.

Christmas Night.  We are all tucked warmly in bed snoozing.  And I get it!  My Christmas present!  One I have asked for many times before December.  One (I later learn) my Daddy had whispered a secret prayer for me to have only a few hours earlier in a Christmas service.  One full of hope and life and mystery...

I dream I am at a family gathering and many of my relatives are standing around talking and laughing.  I look up, and my heart stops.  There she is!  Perfect in a red Christmas dress.  Her hair cascading around her shoulders in soft blonde curls.  "Makiah!?"  I exclaim.  I run towards her.  Suddenly, I realize I am in a dream and fully expect that when I reach her she will vanish- the way she always has before.  A shadow of something past that I am always chasing but never catching.  A ray of light that always slips over the horizon before I can grasp her.  But not this time!  I wrap my arms around her little body, and I feel her!  The warmth of her and the weight of her and the softness of her skin and giggles.  I kiss her and tell her I love her and hold her so very close.  We talk about heaven, and I ask her questions.  And she tells me some things...  treasures I think I will hold close and ponder in my heart like Mary.  Pieces of the conversation are etched in my conscious memory.  The rest feels shrouded as if by a veil.  I cannot quite remember it all or how it ended.  Only that I awoke with the image of my dream encounter playing over and over and bringing smiles to places inside me where only tears have resided for many months.  I want to go back and not open my eyes.  But light creeps in the edges and baby cries poke at my ears.  I am still here.  With my broken family.  But the mystery of a heavenly chat and a little red Christmas dress on Christmas night fill my heart with hope and awe. 

New Year's Day.  I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for special gifts from God's people.  And I am still astonished at my unexpected present that is perhaps from God himself.  I think for a minute that I wish I had written about it a few days earlier, but then I change my mind.  I have spent the holidays soaking up every moment of my family.  Breathing in the memories as they form.  I do not regret it.  I hope this new year- for me and for you- is full of heavenly gifts and soaking up moments... until we are all dripping with life and light... the kind that drives out darkness. 




Monday, December 19, 2011

The Great Exchange


How do I describe the holidays in a life like mine?  It is hard to put into words.  Pain and joy are interwoven in a pattern unique to this season of my life.   

The thread of thankfulness.  I thank God I have a reason to shop this year.   We buy the girls a few toys.   I ask Cameron if he can believe they are almost a year old.  His voice faltering, he says, “They saved our lives.”   I am caught by his answer.  Surprised at the deep truth popping so unexpectedly from his quivering lips.  A throbbing thankfulness shoots across my heart…

The thread of aching.  One morning on the way to work I hurt so badly that it is physical.  A knife ripping through my chest.  Venomous thoughts tear through my mind.  A crushing desire for everyone to hurt this way so I won’t be alone in this bizarre alternate reality of holiday horror.   As if it would lessen my pain.   I hate that I can have these wicked thoughts.  I know why they say hurting people hurt people.   I picture the whole world in this pain, and it seems that everything would fall into chaos and darkness.   And I retreat away from such terrible thoughts in haste.  Repenting as I run…

The thread of blessing.  Gifts of time and thoughtfulness and little red dresses and rainbow scarves and green sunshine (for those who know :).  A rope into this dark pit.   A way to climb up into the light of brighter thoughts.  My husband looks at me and says, “God must really love you.”  Ironic words.  It seems to me.   Since she is gone.  But somehow true.  I think of the song we used to sing often with her…“Good, Good Daddy.”  And all around me the blessings shout that He is good still.  Even in the rain...

The thread of joy.  Yes, there are moments.  Moments of merry.  Humming Christmas tunes under my breath.  Chistmas is different now.  There is no anticipation.   No countdown to a special date.  The joy is not in the coming of the day, but in the now…  Christmas is now.    In this breath I celebrate the giving of a child to die.  A gift I can say with absolute certainty I would never have given.  My child for some miserable sinner?  My little love in exchange for even the most wonderful person?  A trade I would surely never make.  I did not have a choice and neither did Makiah.  But God the Daddy did.  And Jesus the Son did.  He exchanged glory for rags… my rags.  For this one capable of lashing out in painful, wicked thoughts.  For this one who so desperately wants to have a Christmas with her little blonde haired daughter with the curly pigtails and the sparkling green eyes.  For this one who would surely spend eternity in wretchedness and pain  if it had not been for the great exchange.  Him for me.   I take it.   And I have hope that this tangled ball of threads that is my life will be made into something more perfect in the end…

Will you take it?  The great exchange?   No need to wait for some special day.  Eternity lingers all around us.  It is offered to each of us you know…

Makiah Singing Good Good Daddy with her babysitter... a reminder in her own voice... left for her mommy... 


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Foot Washing


I wish I had something profound to write.  Something about the miracle of Christmas and time and hope.  But I can’t quite seem to conjour those words up to the muddy surface of my mind.  Maybe in another week it will seem clearer.  I catch a glimpse of the holiday light here and there in my swirling thoughts, but nothing I can latch on to yet.  I have had my feet washed this weekend, though, and for that I am thankful.  I mean I have been listened to and hugged and helped and my babies have been covered over with love by a very special visitor whose family sacrificed a lot to bring the water of herself to our raw and fragile lives.   And some others joined her, too.

We did put up a Christmas tree, and the word HoPe  sits on my mantle all red and sparkly, drawing the eye and luring the heart.   Makiah’s green eyes laugh at us through a half dozen picture frames and old ornaments scattered about.  She would want the babies to have a pretty first Christmas.  She loves sparkly things and happy music.  Some moments I catch Christmas carols escaping from lips… my lips… almost drawn up in a cautious smile.  Other moments I press the lids hard and disappear deep into a memory of Christmases past.  Of early morning cuddles on the couch while she watches cartoons under the twinkling, colorful lights on the tree.  Of a little blonde one playing mommy and baby with the tiny Christmas bears that have decorated our spruce for a generation or so.  Of her delighted yelps when she opens another mermaid doll that special morning.   Of sitting together and sampling a variety box of two dozen little chocolates…  exchanging  mmm’s for good ones and blah’s for the yucky ones… teeth marks in each, not carrying if we bite them all!

My fingers gingerly trace the reindeer ornament she made.  Her tiny hands as the antlers.  Oh to put those hands in mine!  To see her giggle and play with her sisters!  To buy that girls size 6 Christmas dress at Belks instead of wistfully feeling soft ribbons and then leaving it there to hang.   To hang.  It’s hard not to feel we have been left here to hang.  To hang on the memories and a thin strand of hope.   But then I think of the washing.  The bringing of  life-water  this weekend to pour over our messy lives.  Many others have  emptied out selves for us as well.  I stand thankful.  I will never forget my dear friend literally washing the blood from my feet as I sat stunned and sobbing in the ER room last fall.  She didn’t want me to go home with the blood- it was not mine- screaming from my toes.  

And so in my muddy swirl of emotions, I cannot deny the God-Man who first washed me of my grime.  He keeps sending himself in the life-water of others poured out for us.  In the moments I feel that God has abandoned us, I remember.   And I push against those lonely thoughts because the muddy water around my clean feet reminds me that it is not so.   I have not been left to hang forever because he did hang for me instead.   I grab on to the truth.  I must.  For God so loved me, He gave his only son…