Theodore

My baby nephew died yesterday.

He spent his whole life here on earth in a hospital.

His parents got to hold him only once in the first several weeks of his life.

He lived for 2 months and 19 days.

We have hope, that in heaven we’ll get the chance to properly get to know each other. But we have to wait until then. I don’t really get to know you who you are in this life, Theo.

But, in the short time that I did know you, I loved you deeply and you taught me quite a bit about pain–about dignity and faith and hope in the face of horrifying circumstances. You reminded me how to pray and refocused me on what matters. Sometimes, it can be easy to forget. I can’t ever thank you enough for teaching me those things.

I will miss you every day, until I see you again, warrior baby.

Love,

Aunt Michelle

what to do about the brokenness

A little refugee boy’s body washed up on the shore. He and his mother and brother all drowned, attempting to make it from Turkey to Europe. Three years is all that he got on this earth.

My tiny baby nephew was born three weeks ago, a month early, with respiratory complications. He’s been in the NICU since, on a ventilator, then on bypass, fighting day after day. He’s stable right now. His parents have been able to hold him once each.

I hear the news and cry. I think of my family members, arms and hearts aching to hold their new little one, but instead they hold exhaustion and worry. I think of that refugee family’s loved ones, mourning for two little boys and their mother, in the midst of being displaced from their home, wandering.

What do we do with it? All of this brokenness?

I want to look away. Cuddle my own daughter closer, try to push the images of that little boy, so close to her size,    who never had a chance.

But I won’t look away anymore. I won’t avoid seeing the pain so that I can see another episode on Netflix instead. I will see and I will know. I don’t know what, practically, I’ll do then, but I will know. And that seems like a good place to start.

an honest prayer

God, I am tired of this mess.

What are you doing here?

These are the questions of my heart, I pour them out in quick prayers over and over throughout the day.

I’m having a hard time, God.

I’m not sure that I know you that well anymore.

The only things I can think to pray are selfish, angry, hurt, and bitter.

Why are we here, God?

You must be doing something in this, right? Could you maybe show me soon?

My faith wears thin and I am clinging to promises that he is faithful when we are not, but barely.

We try church after church and don’t find much of you, God. Is that because you are not here or because I don’t remember how to look?

Why do I see you more clearly when I’m watching my daughter discover something new, or in the joyful bounds our dog jumps when we come home than when I’m sitting in a pew trying to look past the “show” and see your face?

I’ve grown up in the church. I’ve barely missed a Sunday in 26 years, until now. Now Sundays are really hard and when I actually find it in me to get to a church, whichever disappointment we’re attempting that particular week, I’m just discouraged.  I have been on the “inside” of American Church Culture for the last 26 years, but for the first time, I’m on the outside, and I don’t like the view.

Where are you, God? I used to know you once. We used to walk together and now you seem far away. I can’t seem to find you in the places that proclaim your name. But you must be here?

Where are you, God?

when everything is heavy

My heart has been inexplicably heavy these past few days.  Or maybe there are just too many weights to explain; I can certainly think of enough.  It’s just on top of all this illness, all this hurt in the world, all this crap we’ve been wading through, I have an underlying feeling of foreboding–gross and heavy, like I can’t really enjoy what’s going on because something is going to happen.  Something bad.

Maybe I am being ridiculous.  I always have weird dreams when I’m sick.  I’ve felt so uneasy and restless since yesterday, especially.  This morning, and today, it’s been better.  Ailey and I are just hanging out, having a pretty nice day.  She’s hilarious and sweet and busy.  All things I love, and more than that.  What a gift, to spend these days with her. 

When I feel like this, I’m learning to ask God for peace and comfort.  Ask him for what I need to do, if anything.  Instead of fretting, pray.  Instead of worrying, seek rest in him.  Thank you, God for being instead for me.  That’s the crux of this grace gift from him, isn’t it?  Instead.  Instead of me, it was him.  Instead of drowning in my sin, I live forgiven.  Instead of pain and suffering, rejoicing.  Praise God for instead.

I’m remembering, the more I write and the more I obey his asking me to walk with him daily (I’m realizing now how long I’ve been disobeying), that I can turn to him instead of worry.  I can focus on his goodness, the gifts he’s given me, and be thankful in the midst of this troubled world with an unknown future looming.  These things are hard and scary, but he is just and true.  When blood is shed in the streets and sons don’t come home to their mothers and riots ensue, God is still just and true.  He’s still working this brokenness for good, right?  He’s in the midst of it.  He’s starting conversations on justice and drawing attention to the places that could use more justice and more of the truth.  He is here with us, in this with us, walking with us.

Thank you God for your faithful hand, on us, with us even now. 

Weary

Today I wear my weariness like a cloak, heavy across my back. I am worn down. I might not even be able to tell you all of the reasons why, and honestly, by themselves, most of them are small. But you know how the small things, heaped high on one another add up to big things. We all do.

So I am taking a moment and a deep breath. And I’m drinking in these words of my Jesus that remind me that I don’t have to carry these things around, heavy on my back, for a second. I hope they’ll be a refreshing reminder for you too.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

Do You Think About Death?

I stumbled across this article
in the New Yorker, written by Roger Angell. He’s 93 and has some fascinating things to say about life once you’ve lost many loved ones.

I read it and cried, because this is something I think about often. Do you? Sometimes it seems so sad and hopeless to imagine life in my later years and having to say goodbye to so many people. But Angell’s words encouraged me a little. We endure.

And I am grateful for the hope of heaven and that goodbyes are only temporary.

photo of my grandparents, on their honeymoon in 1947

In Defense of My Young Family

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I was 22 when my now husband, Trent, asked me to marry him. We were overjoyed. I joined the ranks of young people getting engaged and posting the news on Facebook.  I know for every person who liked my post announcing that we would be married, there were a few rolling their eyes. Once we shared the news, we were inundated with people, young and old alike, telling us we were too young to make such a huge commitment like marriage. Complete strangers would notice the ring on my finger when I was out running errands and beg me to wait. “There’s no need to rush into things,” they said.  At my bachelorette party, an older woman pulled me aside and chided me.  “You are way too young to do this!  You have your whole life to settle down. Why waste your youth like this?” I smiled politely and thanked them for their advice and moved ahead planning our wedding.

We got married a year later. Marrying Trent was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. He is compassionate and strong. He challenges me to be better. He’s fun. He loves me every day more than I deserve on my best days.  He is steadfast where I am flighty.  I’m spontaneous and he is responsible.  We balance each other well.  Do we fight? Sure.  What married couple doesn’t?  Is marriage difficult?  Absolutely.  It’s hard to live with another person who could show me a lot of evidence that I can be really selfish.  But, being married to Trent has taught me so much.  Every day, I’m grateful to have him by side.

Seven months after our wedding, we were surprised to find out that I was pregnant.  It wasn’t exactly the timing  we’d had in mind, but it was happening.  Again, when the time was right, we shared our news on Facebook (as it turns out, baby posts get even more likes than marriage ones).  We were excited and totally scared out of our minds.  I can only describe having a baby as the craziest mix of the most extreme emotions I’ve ever experienced.  Our daughter, Ailey, was born September 27 and she is one of the greatest joys of my life.  I’ve been exhausted and frustrated and covered in spit-up at times, but I’m not lying or attempting to save face when I say that it’s worth it.  There are times when it’s really hard, but I have difficulty even remembering the tough times when she smiles her huge, toothless smile at me or wraps her tiny hand around my finger and holds tight.  I know we’re new to this parenting gig, so I can hardly speak with  authority, but so far being a mother has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Just like we’d experienced after we announced our engagement, once the pregnancy was announced, the dissenters spoke up.  In the months leading up to Ailey’s birth, we heard time and time again, “I can’t imagine having a baby as young as you guys” from others our age.  Several people who were much older than us said, “get ready for your life to change forever.”  “You’ll never sleep again,” they warned.  Upon hearing we were pregnant, countless people asked “did you guys plan this?”  It was pretty obvious that a lot of people thought we were way too young.

And I do understand where people are coming from when they say that we were too young to do what we’ve done.  Actually, I myself have said those things before we became the very people I was referring to.  I recognize that divorce rates of young couples are climbing.  I know that increasingly, kids are raising kids.  We all make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes are closely tied to major life decisions, like getting married and raising kids.  Here’s what else I know:  marrying my husband and giving birth to our daughter are two of the best things that have ever happened to me.  Having both of them in my life has taught me (and at times, forced me) to be a more selfless, loving person.  I think of my own needs far less often than ever, and I am a far better person for it.  Have I missed out on being young?  Maybe I haven’t partied, or traveled, or goofed off as much as I was planning to before getting married and having a baby, but I don’t know that it would have mattered.  I can say that no amount of single or childless years would have better prepared me to be a wife or to have a baby.  There is no “perfect” time at which you are suddenly prepared for marriage or parenthood.  We’ll travel more once our kids are older, while those of you who wait to have kids will still be raising young ones when ours are grown.  It’s a tradeoff.  Getting married and starting our family young was the best thing that could have happened to us.  But, that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying everyone needs to hurry up and start families.  Rushing into marriage is not what I’m advocating here.  I just want people to understand that my timeline is different from yours.  Actually, everyone’s timeline looks a little bit different.  There is nothing wrong with being unmarried at 35 or with having four kids by then.  The problems arise when we put pressure on others, or judge them, because their major life events are coming at a different pace than our own.  I experienced a lot of doubt and anxiety because so many people voiced their opinion that we were too young to do what we did.  Maybe they’re right, I thought.  My life is over, I worried, instead of enjoying the exciting parts of life that I was about to experience.

I’m also not trying to say that there aren’t young people getting married who should have waited.  That happens, too.  I’ve had friends announce engagements that have made me cringe because is was concerned it wasn’t the best for them. I think if my younger sister wanted to marry someone I didn’t think was right for her, I’d lovingly share my concerns.  But, the majority of the negative comments that we received cautioning us not to rush into anything were from people who didn’t know us well, if at all.  Unless you know someone well enough to have some business expressing your opinion about their relationship, just don’t.  Everyone who knew us and knew our relationship well supported our marriage, which was an important confirmation to us that we were doing the right thing.  I don’t think it’s wise to marry someone if the majority of the people you trust don’t approve, but most people, myself included, can’t hear that unless it comes from someone they really trust.  So why say it to strangers?

So, let’s all stop hating and just be happy for each other no matter which stage of life we’re in.  Mmmmk?