Saturday, October 30, 2010

Monumental (Revised)

We've been taking the kids to swim lessons on Saturday mornings for the last several weeks.  This morning, Josh and I decided Abby and I would stay home in hopes of protecting her already stressed lungs from suffering further irritation in the chlorine, so Josh took Ben.  The phone rang about an hour and a half after they left, and when I answered, Josh said Ben wanted to talk to me.


"Hi, Mommy!  Guess what?"

"What, Bug?"

"I have something really exciting to tell you, and I'm really proud of myself for doing it."

"What is it?  I can't wait to hear!"

"Well, I was in the water, and [the instructor] kept moving backwards and I was doing those ice cream scoop things with my arms and I was kicking my legs and my face was in the water for like...about, um, 20 seconds, and Meg didn't even help me!"

"You did it all by yourself?!?!"

"Yeah, I swam all by myself!"

Enter orchestral overtures and fireworks and streaming lights from heaven.

This is a moment that has been years in the making...hoping.  There are some milestones with some kids that feel like summiting Everest.  Swimming was one of Ben's Everests, but I think we've finally made it.  

Okay, so Josh tells me I may have overstated Ben's accomplishment here--though I've accurately reported Ben's perception.  Regardless, Ben is closer to swimming than he's ever been, and his ability to go further for longer, now, is clearly just a matter of time, whereas before it was not certain how he'd get to the point where he could put his head in the water, let alone swim.  Maybe it was only a few seconds this morning, but it was the breakthrough that matters.  Proficiency will come.  

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Language of Abigail

At the breakfast table this morning, Abby and I were playing some word games.  This started when Abby got her yogurt from the refrigerator and asked me what flavor it was.

"Boysenberry," I told her.

"Does ih haf poison ih-nit?" she asked.

"No, Abby, it's not 'poisonberry.' It's 'boysenberry'--with a 'buh' not a 'puh.'"

"Oh.  'Boy-sen-bew-wy.'  Whah else stahrts wif 'buh'?" she asked.

And so the game continued.  At some point, I asked, "What sound does 'teeth' start with?"

She thought for a minute and mouthed it silently: "'Tuh,'" she said. "Teef stahrts wif 'tuh.'"

"That's right!"

"And 'teef' wymes wif 'beef,'" she added.

Hmmm...I couldn't argue with that.  

Thursday, October 21, 2010

In the Shadow of the Polka-Dotted Nightlight

I held my baby (can I still call her that at three?) in the dim glow of her nightlight tonight, waiting for the medicinal mist to work its magic on her lungs.  The shallow cough has been hovering for a day or two, and then the tell-tale rattling began this afternoon.

Unfortunately, Abby now realizes the inconvenience of the nebulizer.  She protested both treatments earlier today, whereas before she simply resigned herself to this fact of life.  After all, this machine has coexisted with her since she was nine months old.

When I went in to treat her late tonight, I mistakenly thought she would snuggle into my arms and accept the nebulizer without protest since I had to lift her out of a sound sleep to rest upright on my lap.  But even in her sleepy stupor, she cried, "I dohn wahn-uh do dat.  I dohn wahn iht," clearly communicating her strong opposition.  I don't blame her, but I also know her body needs this help, so I braced us both and continued.

When she realized the situation was not negotiable, she gave up her fight and resumed her slumber in my arms.  We sat together for several minutes: me leaning against her bed; her leaning against me--body still and heavy, eyes closed.   I held her largely to keep her positioned properly for the meds, but also to feel the weight of her, to see that she still fits on my lap though her legs spill far over where they used to fit neatly, to enjoy her presence while it's still mine to enjoy, to will my love out of my heart--out of my very being--and into her still small but ever-growing body.

These late-night moments with Abby and the nebulizer have always been sweet because she's always accepted them with peace and a seeming awareness that this is what had to be done.  We've passed these stolen minutes in mutual reverie, savoring the snuggly togetherness.  It was painful tonight to share this closeness against her will, to insist upon her rest in my arms.  I felt a twinge of sadness at her attempt to squirm away.

But this is my job: to have arms strong enough to contain any protest or rebellion or railing against her best interest.  And it is a sacred job.  I know her lungs need the freedom to expand and fill.  I know her body needs to be able to breathe.  She sees sacrifice.  I see life.  I see it on her behalf.

There is divinity in it, I think, to sit on the omniscient side of another's pain, to recognize the profound disappointment and frustration of one I would die for and yet to will it anyway for her benefit, so that she might live life to the fullest.  All of it--every intention and motivation and action--is wrapped up in love.  Deep, unstoppable love.  Love that is willing to insist in spite of herself.

Equally spiritual is her willingness to submit, to surrender her will to mine--trusting that I know, or at the very least, trusting that I love.

I held my Abby tonight, though she would have preferred I left her sleeping, and I learned something about our Father in heaven who loves perfectly and wills all things for our good.  I pray that I will have the faith to surrender even when I feel like going back to bed.  And I pray someday that Abby will see and understand why I held her tight so the vapor could reach her lungs in spite of her sorrow.  It's so she could breathe.  And live.

It shouldn't surprise me anymore when I find myself on holy ground in the most everyday places, but it still does: burning bushes, baby's breaths, my daughter's room in the shadow of her polka-dotted nightlight...

All hallowed by Love.  

Friday, October 15, 2010

Theology 101: From the Mouths of Babes

In the car, we listen to the kids' favorite album du jour: a collection of worship songs sung by kids.  We've been listening to it over and over (and over and over), so now the kids know most of the words and sing along, announcing which song is which when the music begins playing.  They also ask dozens of questions about what the words mean.

Today Abby asked, "Why do dey say, 'Open duh eyes of my hahrt, Ward, I wahn to see youh?"

I thought for a moment and said, "I think because sometimes it's easier to live our lives when we can see where Jesus is and what he has made and the work he is doing around us.  So they're asking for eyes that can see him everywhere."

"Jesus wohrks in evwee-one," Abby said.

"I know what Jesus's work is," Ben added.  "Do you want to know what Jesus's work is?"

"Yes," I answered, wondering what he would say.

"Jesus's work is to tell us he loves us.  That's the work Jesus does," he explained.

I thought for a second and realized that was as pure and accurate an explanation of God's work in this world as anyone could possibly articulate.

"You're right, Ben.  Jesus is always working to show us he loves us."


Friday, October 1, 2010

Man Does Not Live By Bread Alone

In the group of friends with whom we meet weekly, the men have taken up the craft of bread-making.  It is a serious endeavor with discussion of yeast and starters and stones and technique.  They have books filled with recipes and baking secrets.  They exchange discoveries with each other as they mix their dough and knead their loaves, forming them into perfect, symmetrical shapes.  Several of the men in our group are scientists or engineers or both: all are smart men, strong men, confident men, and this wild frontier of bread, both science and art, calls to them like a siren.

Our group went away to the mountains for the weekend, and by the middle of our first day, the house was filled with the warm, slightly sour aroma of fresh bread: focaccia, oatmeal wheat, sourdough.  As they worked, I looked on in wonder at the dough rising out of its bowl; I peeked at the bread baking in the oven, marveling at the ministry of heat.  Bread-making is a process, a labor of love executed in multiple steps over many hours and days.

Perhaps because the process is so long, so involved, so passionately rendered, the breaking of the bread in our time together becomes sacred, sacramental.  We eat this bread, made by hands in our midst, with wine over conversation of glory and failure and hope and fear.  We taste it fully, savor its richness.  The bread brings us firmly into the present and transforms our time into communion: we sustain our bodies together, and this shared rite allows us to also sustain our spirits: we confess, we speak truth and hope into each other's lives, and we do it all in remembrance of Him.

I used to think people who made their own bread were crazy, but I'm being converted to the fellowship of the real thing.  It takes time, yes, and energy, but it yields so much more than carbohydrates.  Faith, hope, and love; comfort in small miracles; the hard-earned joy of labor and its fruit.  Freshly-baked bread speaks to something in the soul about goodness, unadulterated goodness.  Jesus called himself the bread of life.  He told the disciples to think of him anytime they broke bread together, drank wine together.  We taste the mystery anytime we share a meal, but its significance seems somehow magnified in the simplicity of bread.

In our temporary home in the mountains, I breathed deep the fresh, yeasty smells, and I sensed my spirit rising, my heart growing with quiet gratitude: for the bread, for these friends, and for yet another glimpse of divinity.

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