Wednesday, January 30, 2013

For My New Teenager

The pastor asked us to choose some verses for the ceremony, and--because I'd conceived you on my twenty-fifth birthday--I chose James 1:17. I requested it read out of King James, where it's most beautiful.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 

This remains my Cade verse. Memorize and carry it; break it into pieces-parts if ever things seem dark, if ever you're in need of a little light. I've heard your profession of faith; I've witnessed your submersion in the waters of baptism; the steadfast Father of lights belongs to you. He has fixed His gaze upon you. He goes with you into all the spaces I do not.

Those spaces become more all the time, and it won't be long, now, until you're grown and gone. A young-man voice calls for Mom and means me, and it jars. I doubt the strength of my heart, sometimes, when I think of your leaving home. But I remind myself: since you were only four, you've been leaving home three nights a week and Saturdays.

I've been learning to let you go for almost nine years.

And they want me to say I'm sorry for the way it all worked out, but I won't, because I'm not. If they sent me back to April 1999, I would offer my body to the same husband (the wrong husband) all over again, just to become your mom: the mom of a teenager with his dad's deep patience and easy forgiveness.

You, My Son, are a gift from the Father of lights, and I'll never love another person more than I love you. I'll always be behind you, for you, with you. Lord willing, I'll go ahead of you, to wait for you, and it will be so bright there: much brighter, My Darling, than even the sun.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nostalgia: A Repost

Happily busy, this weekend: celebrating Cade's 13th birthday, enjoying my parents and the snow. Thought I'd repost my earliest memories of winter. If you're in a snow- and/or ice-covered area, please do drive carefully.


I am a girl in Pennsylvania winter.  I am a barrel of brown-headed energy.  There is no bottom to the barrel I am.  Snow makes everything new.  Watch: I can make a snow angel.  This is the closest I will ever come to being an angel; I already know.  I have a snowsuit: slick, tarpish overalls--blue and pink--with a matching coat.  My mother has a snowsuit just like mine, except brown.  She's beautiful, my mother.  Her brown hair curls out from underneath her boggan hat.  Her eyes laugh and laugh.  She knows how to crochet and crocheted our scarves.  She knows how to do everything.  She's a fast sledder, and she can iceskate in circles like Dorothy Hamill.  We all have our own iceskates, and--when we want to use them--all we have to do is walk next door to Grandad Shafer's pond.  Grandad drives his tractor right out onto the ice to push away the snow; he isn't scared of his tractor falling into the pond.  He isn't scared of anything, and neither is my dad.  My dad killed a black bear, once, in Maine.  It was really big, and its skull sits on top of Dad's gun cabinet, and its fur hangs on our wall.  That proves how brave my dad is: very brave.  Extremely.  We might iceskate tonight, and--if we do--I hope Grandad builds a bonfire on the bank.  I hope my little brother waits a long time to whine about being cold: at least until I can't feel my toes, anymore.  And, after we skate, I hope my mother boils milk on the woodstove and makes hot chocolate.

Yesterday, my brother and I built burrows in the walls of plowed snow in our driveway.  We both like playing Rabbits but have to take turns about with Snowball Wars and Fairy Cave.  I don't like Snowball Wars; snowballs burn when they hit, and someone ends up crying every time.  Usually my brother.  I moreso like looking for fairies (which my brother thinks is stupid) at the opening to the underground stream, where icicles hang.  I just love icicles; don't you?  Our biggest ones hang off the roof of our red barn.  In the mouth, they're like pointy popsicles with no taste.

Maybe it will take awhile for the snow to melt, this time.  I feel bad for the snowmen when their heads shrink to the size of eggs and their rock eyes fall out.  And I think winter is the very best season: better than all the other seasons put together, really, even if you're not counting Christmas, which of course is the very, very best holiday...

The Yard of Our Farm in Pennsylvania

A Snowman Friend and Me.  These pictures precede most of my memories of self but capture, perfectly, my memories of Pennsylvania winter landscape.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


I don't really know her, the seventh grader helping with the younger children, but her mother is the sort of friend with whom I wish I spent more time: lighthearted, loyal. I'm busy and hardly talk to the girl but, even so, catch glimpses of her mother in her. The way she tilts her head, smiles without showing teeth, rests her hand on a little one's back. My heart swells a little, thinking of my friend and how her daughters become her.

No one ever suggests I've become my mother. More's the pity.

I saw myself in Clementine the other day. She was cramming her sister's foot into a sparkly tennis shoe, sighing and saying (with great frustration): "Work with me, Charleigh!"

Then she put her hand on her hip and said to her brother: "Cade, I have a job for you. Go out on the porch and get the cat bowl for me, ok?"

Cade, nine years her senior, looked down at her and back up at me. "She sounds exactly like you, Mom!" he laughed. And there, in his relaxed stance and expression of patient amusement, I saw again: his dad, my ex-husband.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cut in Half

Baby Chip has his days and nights mixed up, and Mama is tired. I didn't crawl out of bed until 10:30, last Sunday, and there was no getting to church on time.

Clementine was devastated. "We'll have church right here," I told her, "at home." I was rummaging around for Cade's old, comic-book Bible when a conflict ensued between the sisters.

They have tons of baby dolls, but of course, they want daily the same one, the one with the attached pacifier that sticks in its mouth. At this point in the story, each girl was yelling: "My baby!"

"Girls," I said, "come here, and let us tell you what happened when two mommies in the Bible fought over the same baby." So in they ran, and Jim and I introduced Wise King Solomon as the son of David the Giant Killer.

We proceeded to tell them about the two mommies in I Kings 3 (technically prostitutes, but no need to go there, we thought) who laid claim to the same baby. Mommy #2 had rolled over on her baby and killed it (The oldest, known argument against co-sleeping?), said Mommy #1, then switched out the dead baby for the living one. Mommy #2 denied this, so Wise King Solomon called for a servant and told him to cut the baby in two and give half to each mommy. Mommy #2 liked the idea, but Mommy #1 begged the king to give the baby to Mommy #2. That's how Wise King Solomon knew Mommy #1 was the real mommy.

We studied images related to the story, and I suggested we put on a play. I cast Jim as Wise King Solomon, Cade as the servant, Clementine as Mommy #1, and Charleigh as Mommy #2 (since she would have fewer lines than Clementine).

When Cade dangled beloved Pacifier Doll upside-down and raised his other arm as though to slay it with an imaginary sword, both girls--clad in princess dresses--cried simultaneously: "NOOOO!"

I gently reminded Charleigh that she should yell: "Cut the baby in half!" Jim proclaimed Clementine the real mommy, and she extended her arms to receive Pacifier Baby.

The girls forgot to argue over the baby doll for a good, little while after the play. I felt great about our church at home and all of it, really.

Until a few days ago when Cade walked by the feuding sisters, and Charleigh called after him: "Oh, Server! Come cut MeMe [Clementine] in HALF!"

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Mom's Creepy-Cool Friend, Pt. 2

(To read the first part of this story, click here.)

I'd heard the Lord tell me to back off, and I did, but I remained uneasy; for all I knew, He was allowing my mom to learn a hard lesson. I continued to pray. Interestingly, the one friend in whom I chose to really confide shared something I hadn't known to that point; her mom--after becoming friends with some women who could speak in tongues--had prayed for and received that particular gift. My mom's stuff seemed mild, in comparison. I know it wasn't a coincidence: God provided me with the perfect friend to relate, comfort, pray.

I met one of my mom's new friends a little over two years ago; she and my mom had traveled to Maryland to visit my grandma. Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Carolyn welcomed all of us into their house.

My mom's friend behaved lovingly toward me from the start, but she made me squirm a little, none-the-less. She sat across the table from me and sort of leaned in, looking me in the eye and speaking so directly that I wondered if she could see into me, or through me. She's not a loud person by any means, but she's candid about her faith in a way I'm not. I felt intimidated. I hate to feel intimidated and rarely do.

I'll say, too: I can usually decide how I feel about someone within minutes, but I went to bed conflicted about my mom's friend and--no thanks to Baby Charleigh--didn't sleep well. Next morning, my legs hurt coming down the stairs, and I complained without thinking.

"Well, let's just pray about that," my mom's friend said.

Crap, I thought. I didn't want to be the center of attention in that way. I didn't want to pray about my legs. I didn't want my mom's friend to lay hands on me. I didn't want any of it, and maybe I would've refused, but I knew instinctively: this person wasn't going to let me off the hook easily. I was tired. I didn't feel like explaining (or trying to explain) my feelings, and I didn't want to look like a bad Christian: what kind of Christian turns down prayer?

I sank down beside my mom's friend on the couch. My mom flanked me on the other side. Her friend put her hands on my knees and started to pray. And you may well think I'm a crazy nutbar (I probably wouldn't believe me if I weren't me!), but my knees--and I was wearing blue jeans--got hot under this woman's hands. I assure you, it was more than a matter of body heat or sweaty palms (or knees). I'd never experienced anything like it. Baffled and annoyed to be baffled, I said as much after the prayer.

My mom laughed with delight. My legs haven't hurt, since.

I'm trying to think how I want to wrap up this story. I don't worry about my mom's friendships, anymore. I feel completely at ease around the second friend, but I continue to feel uncomfortable around the one about whom I've written, here. Meanwhile, she's helped to lead one of my relatives to the Lord. I respect her. I'm thankful for her.

Given my belief that this woman is a sister in Christ, what does my discomfort mean? I'm not sure. I've thought about it a lot and wonder if it's an indication of my spiritual immaturity or just a disconnect in terms of spiritual style. I quit a small group, once, because one of its members was apt to declare spontaneously that everyone in the room should put her face to the ground and pray. I've always given street preachers a wide berth, and--unless the Lord changes my heart--I'll neither sit under "hellfire and brimstone" preaching, again, nor subject my children to it.

But I won't say there isn't a place, time, and audience for all of the above. Lord, lead and kindly grow this stubborn, shell-shocked girl.

Monday, January 14, 2013

My Mom's Creepy-Cool Friend, Pt. 1

I need to preface this story by disclosing a few things about me. First of all, I feel like my relationship with the Lord is solid. I started to type that I'm content with where He and I are, but I don't want to give you the impression that I don't want to draw closer, or that I'm not trying. Every relationship involving a human (in this case, me) has room for improvement. Still, I feel close to God: like we love one another, like we have an open dialogue.

The second thing I want to tell you is that, often, I'm uncomfortable with Christians who are (or seem) more zealous than I. I get fired up over Christians' facebook posts, sometimes, but for the most part, I'm talking about in-person interaction. I hate feeling cornered or pressured or, worst of all, insecure.

Finally, I'm very protective of my people. I would rather you hurt me than one of them, for sure. Not to digress, but I remember the first time I met one of my friend Rachel's sisters: how she looked at me with suspicion, how she sized me up. I remember laughing inside, knowing that sister would always be my favorite because--even though she didn't know it, yet--we shared a desire to protect Rachel.

Anyway, a few years ago, my mom made a couple new friends. Every time I talked to her on the phone (she lives about eight hours away), she talked with excitement about these new friends, and it was obvious that she was growing very close to them very quickly. Even if her new friends had sounded exactly like my friends, I probably would've been a little uncomfortable because I'd always known my mom's friendships to develop slowly and over long periods of time.

But the fact of the matter is, these new friends didn't sound like any of my friends, any of my mom's old friends, or--to be honest--anyone I'd ever known, personally. They were involved in spiritual disciplines that were outside of my comfort zone, one of which was fasting for long periods of time. My mom told me that, for several weeks, she wanted to consume nothing but water and a little juice. She also told me she wanted to buy and learn to play a harp: not a mouth harp, not a hand-held harp, but an instrument so large it wouldn't fit in the trunk of her car.

I'm not going to lie: I was freaked out. I was afraid that my mom had lost her mind, that she was being manipulated by these people, or both, and I told her so. I also expressed concern to a couple of other family members who were of little comfort because they, too, were taken aback by the whole situation.

No doubt about it: my mom was definitely behaving out of character. I was worried about her. I started to pray, and I felt like the Lord answered me. I didn't like His words at all, but I heard them very clearly (and, to be honest, pretty loudly): "BACK OFF."

I apologized to my mom for giving her a hard time and told her about my experience with the Lord. She laughed with delight. She couldn't see me, but--on the other end of the phone--I'd crossed my arms in front of me and rolled my eyes.

I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.

(The rest of the story to follow. My mom doesn't like that, in my last post, I described her friend as "creepy-cool." I'm guessing it isn't the "cool" part that bothers her. But, look: Merriam-Webster defines creepy as "producing a nervous shivery apprehension," and that describes her friend perfectly!, so I'm sticking with it.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Why I Quit Astrology

Wednesday, January 9th was full; Sharon and I took the little ones to the park that morning, and Jim and I took the girls to dance class that evening. But, truth is (and for reasons I'm about to share with you), my head always spins a little on January 9th.**

Thirteen years ago, Cade was due on January 9th. At the time, I didn't want him to be born on January 9th because (and please don't get all in a tither until you read the rest of the story) I'd studied astrology for a long time, and I just couldn't imagine how I would ever parent a Capricorn.

Truly, I was caught up enough in astrology to have determined which times were best for my getting pregnant. I'd gotten careless on my twenty-fifth birthday, though, and--as January 9th wasn't anywhere near a cusp--it seemed inevitable that I would soon be parenting someone incompatible, astrologically speaking, with me.

I was distressed, but almost unbelievably, Cade arrived sixteen days late and was therefore born an Aquarius. My mom shook her head and said something like: "Now, that is true stubbornness: to hold a baby in an extra sixteen days to make sure he's born a different sign."

Fast forward less than three years, and I met this girl at a church function and just sort of knew, instantly, that we were going to be best friends. I told her so, and as providence would have it, she was curious enough to hang around and see about that. Ten years down the pike, and she's among those nearest and dearest to my heart: someone with whom I do life.

Well, get this: after I proclaimed that we were going to be best friends, I learned that her birthday is January 9th, Cade's old due date. (I remember narrowing my eyes, wondering: how is it possible that I'm so drawn to a Capricorn?)  

Then I learned that her husband's birthday is the same day as mine! At the time, all of it really messed with my head. I was convinced that she and her husband weren't as happily married as they appeared to be.

Over time, though, I had no choice but to accept it: that Capricorn girl is perfectly compatible with her man. And me. So that was the beginning of the end of my faith in astrology. And more than that, I count this story as part of my heritage of faith in the one true and living God: the One who made the stars. (Only He could have such a sense of humor!)

(Stay tuned, and I'll tell you a story about my mom's creepy-cool friend and how she reminded me that I don't know everything. Or much of anything.)

I would've loved him just as much had he been born a Capricorn.

My Capricorn Bestie

**My head was spinning so hard that I forgot to say Happy Birthday to Christina of crumbs from His table on January 9th, which is a shame; I like the date even more because she was born on it. Happy Belated Birthday, Dear Christina!

I Hope You Dance

My man worked from home to insure our being on time, and we were, all six of us. The little girls were dressed--down to their fleece-lined boots--in street clothes, and I reminded them on the way into the studio: "You're only going to watch, this time, not dance."

But after we introduced ourselves, the teacher invited the girls to dance, after all. "I didn't bring any special clothes for them," I said.

"That's ok," she said, smiling wide. "They're fine. Their shoes are fine," and in a flash, the girls were ahead of her, gone behind the curtain. "I'll keep it pushed to the side a little," she called over her shoulder, "so you can peek in on them."

The music started, and Clementine tried to follow along from the start. Charleigh, though, stood perfectly still, taking in everything through her wide, gray eyes. I recognized and felt, to my very bones, the anxiety in her pale, pixie face. I could hardly tear myself from the curtain, but I was afraid that--if she saw me--she would tear herself from her uncomfortable spot on the floor and run to me.

Over and over, I spied on Charleigh and found her yet frozen in place. "Maybe she's not ready," I whispered to Jim. "Maybe she's too young."

Funny how--in moments like that--a mommy remembers every time she's been afraid to try; or has tried and been less than the best; or has tried and failed, utterly. How she holds her breath, takes her hand and presses into that spot just above her heart, and teeters (wanting to spare her wide-eyed darling every sort of disappointment) on the cold, sharp edge of tension.

She teeters, but, in the end, she waits.

And thank goodness, because--long before the music stops--the toe of her darling is apt to start tapping: the eyes shining, the lips upturning. Soon and very soon, her red-headed sprite might just hug her tighter than tight and whisper in her ear: "Mama, Ima be a ballerina."

In which case--even as the same words roll off her tongue--a mommy will remember all the times her parents looked her straight on and said, with utter confidence: "Yes. Of course you will."

Saturday, January 5, 2013


A trend exists, in the corner of the blogosphere where I hang out, to select a word for the year and let it--for 365 days--sort of define one's days or actions or very being. I chose a word for the first time, last year. I took my word selection pretty seriously. I really wanted a fun and unusual word: the sort of word that no one else would think to choose, something that would make me stand out as being clever or original. But, in the end, the Lord put the word "trust" on my heart. Run-of-the-mill, I thought. I felt a little disappointed.

But I got hit pretty hard, last year, and I thought about my word a lot. I wish I could tell you that--because my word was trust--I trusted God perfectly. Truth is, though, I spent a lot of time praying: "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief."

My word helped most in that I told myself, often: the Lord had given it to me and would surely, therefore, teach me something about it in the course of the year. And He did, and I'm glad for it, but--I'll be honest--it wasn't always pleasant, the learning.

So here I am, five days into 2013, and God has given me another run-of-the-mill word: "peace." I feel a little nervous: is God planning to teach me something about peace by allowing me to be aggravated to death? He can be a little sneaky like that.

What I know for sure is that I can't expect peace on earth (including in my country or community). Jesus didn't come to bring it (Matthew 10:34, Luke 12:51). So--while I'm encouraged to be a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9)--what I'm going to learn about peace pertains, most likely, to the condition of my heart.

My Dad and Charleigh

Already, I'm wondering what I can do (and stop doing) to foster inner peace. I don't want to overthink it; after all, the peace of God passeth all understanding (Philippians 4:7). But if you have words of wisdom to share, please feel free...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's a Matter of Trust

I could tell you I didn't blog much, December, because I was looking at gingerbread houses, or building them; visiting family members, friends, and Santa Claus; baking cookies and touring tacky lights; eating doughnuts, pancakes, and Jesus's birthday cake. But the greater truth is: I spent a whole lot of time stroking Baby Chip's feet; they're softer'n a jack rabbit's, almost just as long, and very likely just as lucky.

Only, around here, we believe in blessings over luck.

Christmas Eve, remembering the Christmas Eve before, I cried through what was supposed to be a solo of "O Holy Night." I was too overwhelmed with gratitude to sing any verse, turns out, let alone the second, which--having been advised of imminent miscarriage--I'd deliberately skipped the year before.

But Jesus was, in all my trials, born to be my friend. He did know my need, and he really was no stranger to my weakness. Easy for me to say now, I guess, given the beautiful child I conceived just after miscarrying. But I just can't stop thinking: God was the same, Christmas 2011, as He was Christmas 2012. When my heart was breaking, He was just as good. He could see ahead to November. He could see ahead to Baby Chip.

We spent New Year's Eve at my brother's and sister-in-law's house in East Tennessee. My parents joined us, also my sister-in-law's parents. My brother expressed gratitude that each of us was there, adding rightly: it could've easily been otherwise. (My husband survived gastric bypass surgery in 2012; my older nephew survived a serious, injurious ATV accident; and Baby Chip and I survived an emergency c-section.)

Trouble remains among us, but, on New Year's Eve, we were all together. My sister-in-law's dad Rob--that good preacher who officiated Jim's and my wedding, Cade's baptism, and the girls' dedications--said a few words for Baby Chip, and Jim and I laid hands on our son's soft, warm head and poured out our prayers along with Rob's and the others'. Then Rob led us in Holy Communion, and my sister-in-law's mom Sherry sang "It Is Well with My Soul."

And it is. Well. My word for 2012 was "trust," and I guess I've never been so broken by a year as I was, last. But I love the Lord more than ever, and so much of our (as with every) relationship has always been a matter of trust.

8 Weeks Old