Monday, July 28, 2014

why write

i don't know what it is about writing that i find so interesting. Grammar and rules mean little to me... it's something else entirely that i find captivating.
i see emerging writers grappling with ever expanding vocabulary standing in front of a wall of words that are like a wall of paint chip samples in varying shades of white - picking painstakingly the one that most closely matches their heart. They take a phrase and bend it; using punctuation and sentence structure - like an artist creating a sculpture - till it pleases their eye and the rhythm and cadence makes the words roll off their tongue, just so.
And i have felt that same call that beckons a new writer to write.
"Hear me, hear me..."
Finally with something to say - an offering - and at times the very heart of praise as truth is proclaimed and etched for all eyes to see.
Little Elmer is barely one. He stumbles on fat legs that still wobble and collapse. His words are few - most of his articulations are shrill - little commands and reports of displeasure or pleasure or desire.
Will he one day sit before a glowing box - fingers clickety clacking over a keyboard, slavishly putting the magic of his mind into sentences and paragraphs that make his mama laugh and cry and puzzle over the complexity of God's creation - a little boy woven together in my womb - and now having the ability to weave words that have the potential to change a heart - a mind - a life...
i don't know..
i re-read the words i just wrote now.  They look kind of lame - all trying too hard, and falling too short.
I tweak one here - pull a sentence out there. Change the intensity, adding a blush of colour...
i want them to see me wrestling. i want them to see me falling short... i want them to know that you don't ever arrive, there is only growing, learning and change.
So, write little ones... ignore the perfectionism that would steal your words and silence the truths you're learning.  Every battle you engage in to get your ideas down will make you more a more proficient, adept communicator. You'll find more clarity in your thoughts and more grace in capturing them.
You'll get better.
Let me peek into the workings of your mind - and make myself and home among your musings...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

for my mom on mother's day

My mom was 23 when she had me - her third daughter.
When I was little, I would sometimes sneak into her bed in the mornings and she would be watching David Mainse on 100 Huntley Street. i can still feel the soft stretched skin of her stomach. I'd be fingering the silvery marks under my index finger and feeling the wonder in knowing that i helped put them there.
I still have some faint memories from the time that I got to spend at home after both my big sisters were in school. I remember one time, them coming home, and i ran up to them, clinging to them, smelling deeply that unfamiliar smell - school. I still got to stay home and bake with mom... she let me eat the leftover pieces from the gingerbread house she made at Christmas time while i hid behind the couch. I got to tag along on grocery shopping. I got to play with my dollies and go to her ladies bible study - and i don't remember minding.
I remember when I enrolled in kindergarten. We lived close enough that I could walk to school. I remember coming home and getting tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. My mom loved to hear my stories from kindergarten - and I loved to perform. Still to this day, she's always saying how my retelling of the story "Little Miss Helpful" was remarkable. i was five. I'm pretty sure it wasn't remarkable - but it was to her.
i remember how i studied her face and found it unreadable when we would tease and beg for a baby brother... i begged as hard as my sisters did... but deep down, i always wondered how it would feel to lose my "baby of the family" status... i never got to find out.
I remember in grade three, coming out of the school. I didn't say a word - and maybe that's how she knew, but she pressed me and I could hardly choke out in gasping sobs how my teacher had humiliated me in front of the class.
"Wait here for a minute... " She said as she slipped out of the vehicle and through the doors of the school.
She wasn't furious - but I knew that she had my back.
I remember one time my mom came to school to drop something off. She was wearing a new white spring jacket, and all my friends thought she was pretty... and I did too.
And weaving itself between little individual memories are the innumerable memories of the hours spent learning harmonies, blending parts and stumbling piano. There was always a half empty forgotten cup of coffee resting on the side of the piano in those years. After I'd go to bed, i would hear her play The Homecoming - often stopping and starting - a lifelong work in progress. Neil and i heard it come on the speakers in a restaurant when we were out for breakfast one time and i had to bow my head to hide the tears... There is a soundtrack to my childhood, and that song is on it.
One time, my mom and i were waiting in the sanctuary of the church for something. i was just a little girl and my mom opened a hymnal. "Do you know this one?" She asked as she started to play... She played song after song after song... and i remember not knowing so many of them. And so she taught me - she took us to seniors homes and we sang the hymns - she whispered the alto lines in my ear during church and so many of those songs became precious to me as they soaked in trough the fabric of my being into my heart, nourishing my very soul.
I remember when my sisters got "ghetto blasters" and they would record on tapes the rock music off of 630Ched; Peter Cetera, Glass Tiger, George Michael, Van Halen. I was just a little too far behind, a little too young, a little less cool...  I snuck out to the yard and my mom was gardening. She likes growing things... she went and got us each a fudgesicle and we sat on those cedar house steps, and as the sun beat down on the top of my head, that memory stored itself deep inside my mind with the silence punctuated only by the sounds of chirping birds and whispering grass...
I remember moving in grade 6... and watching her car out the back window of the bus as she followed me to my new school on my first day.
I remember her olive green bikini and how brown her skin would get... how much she loved the water and her willingness to get her hair wet.
In high school, we hiked. Often in silence... or maybe we talked, but i don't remember talking a lot... i loved hiking Kalamoir. It made my lungs hurt - and the view made my heart explode. i would always delay lifting my eyes from the hill that was freckled with brown eyed susans. i would wait till we were at the top... and then let the beauty of the sun on the lake shatter me in a million ways as i drank it in, in great thirsty draughts.
Later, we biked. i wonder how many miles we biked together around the Okanagan valley?
i remember going to school in grade 11 to write my physics exam and then the freedom of skipping out early, meeting her in the parking lot and heading out on a bike trip. Both my sisters had moved out - and i missed them. Those trips distracted me from the things i needed distracting from, and gave me memories to carry when i experienced a premature baptism into adulthood, finding myself a pregnant, unmarried 19 year old.
My parents were reeling - how could they not reel?
But i could tell she didn't want to be a part of any destruction of these sacred memories of engagement, matrimony and first child...
So, she worked to bring out the sweetness - coaxing it like a flame from a damp log. Embossing butterflies on my reply post cards, beautifying each little detail that i was too sick or busy to attend to, sewing me a dress...
i remember feeling like maybe i wasn't supposed to talk about my pregnancy. i did talk about how miserable i felt, but was talking about the baby off limits until the wedding was over? i didn't know what was allowed...
One afternoon, i was at her house so she could see how the dress fit me; my body kept changing...
It was that afternoon that i felt Cairo's first kick... Timidly, i told my mom - and she smiled as we talked about it. She didn't shush me,  she wasn't over the top - but she just let me be... and share that little piece of wonder with her.
It was a similar feeling - one of not knowing the rules - when i lost my first son a year later. i remember she came to me even though she lived two provinces away. i sobbed to her that i didn't know how to grieve. i didn't know what i was supposed to feel - how i should act. What were the rules??
She told me to feel what i feel.
And that was that.
My parents did so many things right.
i think so often, I've had a personality that has trouble remembering exactly how things were. My memories are whispers rather than shouts. Lately, I've seen the value in shuffling through those memories and pulling out the ones that are worth preserving... putting a little effort into exploring that dusty, cobwebby past - and making discoveries that climb up my limbs and whisper in my ears that i have been loved.
Mama, i know this isn't pretty or well organized - but I'm so grateful to you for having me. I'm grateful that you love beauty. I'm grateful that even now, you're constantly changing growing and learning.
I'm grateful that you're my mom.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

motherhood - it's not what you think

It's almost mother's day.
I've been sitting here thinking of some of the moms that I know - or even the ones that I don't know. Moms who aren't in the thick of the curly toddler locks, the teething babies, the laboriously printed block letters...
No...
Motherhood goes beyond all the things that are physically hard and sweet and poignant. All the things that the internet highlights as motherhood?  They're our very best side.
The side that we hardly dare to speak of - let alone post it on the internet... that's the side that has been on my mind. The gut churning days where adolescent lives are wept over. The adult child who is full of seething hatred. The families struggling with mental illness and begging social services for a hand.

Oh, and I love me some baby love.

Who has loved motherhood like I have? Blogging the precious night wakings and the nursling, juggling the sweet elementary homeschoolers with gap toothed grins and scraped up knees... oh, I love it, I love it, I love it...
But mercy...
There are mothers who are spending their lives humbling themselves yet again in the face of extraordinary circumstances beyond anything that a sane human being would willingly sign up for. Loving beyond broken relationships, physical ability, beyond the gates of heaven that welcomed children before the parents who never stop longing for them.
I was thinking that maybe we should just scrap this whole divisive mother's day thing... So many women pained by infertility, singleness - and a callous culture that undervalues women in almost any life circumstance and pits us against each other in the most unfathomable ways.
But then I couldn't help but think of the women who are mothering through the darkest of days. The ones who reject any honour that might try to land on them on mother's day. The ones who grimace through the airy compliments from others who know nothing of their struggle - because the story isn't theirs to tell, it belongs to their suffering children - and amazing mother that she is... she'd cut off her own arm before she'd spill the howling pain she's in as she goes about her days praying for respite.
So this mother's day, I want to honour *that* mother.
The mother walking in the dark.
The mother trying to find an empty room so she can scream into a pillow.
The mother who looks like she has it all.
The mother who is being faithful.
The mother who is a lifeline to the human souls entrusted to her.
The mother who personifies hope.
The mother who needs some herself...

Happy mother's day.

Keep on, precious woman... one foot in front of the other...
You are doing Kingdom work - and it is not in vain.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (phil 3)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

under the label

"We kissed, so we're married." He claims his spot on my lap and smashes our faces together. He's four. The days of wanting his mama for a wife are definitely numbered. His eyes are a dazzling blue. They're striking to me lately since I spend so much time gazing into his baby brother's eyes... Elmer's are different - kind of a blue/green with a ring of brown around the inside...
A whole passel of little boys we have, and in these days it seems i eat, drink and breath motherhood. Gage is full of empathy and protective maturity for the younger set. Ephraim is the class clown - his face, like a magical chameleon capable of every impossible expression. Elmer is growing into his personality, trying it on like a costume - now his eyes glinting with humour that a ten month old begins to grasp, now communicating with confusing body language his desires, now furiously misunderstood.
They wrestle like a litter of puppies wiggling over each other, guttural growls and terrifying, careless leaps.
This is a part of the work I'm doing in my thirties.
And it's the same as it ever was a dozen years ago when I had three girls instead of these three little boys... And I wonder if I've grown at all when I've kept on doing the same thing instead of wrapping up one phase of life and moving on to the next...
I'm still changing diapers. I'm still breastfeeding. A dozen years after stumbling through grade 1 with my firstborn, I'm still stumbling through grade one with my sixth born, this time while watching my first complete the requirements for graduation.
And so many would use my extended season of motherhood to label me.
"She's the one with eight kids..."
And if I'm honest... I do it myself. Oh, how I dearly love these little people.... Even the ones who have grown taller than me. Even the three that went Home before me. Each one tearing me as they stretched me so that I'm not even the same person I was before they came...
But even so...

He.

Strips me of my beloved label of "mother".

He.

Strips me of the sweet label of "wife".

He.

Looks deeper... past my outward appearance.
Way past it.
He. Sees. Me.
And as I'm seen, I'm scrambling for covering... used to hiding behind, cheering from the stands, sitting in a shadow.
Not Neil's wife, or Ephraim's mama...
No, under the label, I'm His.

28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’    Acts. 17:28

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Ends

It was a dreary morning for the middle of April. We woke up to more snow, and honestly? It affected me more than I want to admit.
We opened the book of Romans and studied chapter 14, exploring the greys in life - all those areas that make us uncomfortable or are a matter of conscience. Romans has been kind of heavy - and some of the questions i asked were met with silence. i didn't blame them... i was tired too, and sometimes when the world is covered with grey, we ache for less grey... more light...
We prayed together... and that's when it happened.
"We still haven't picked a new book!" Charter moaned.
We had finished _Where the River Begins_ by Patricia St. John last week and we still hadn't picked our next read aloud.
I had been meaning to scour the bookshelves to see what we haven't read out loud yet, or to find an old favourite that we'd want to read again, but these past couple months have just been killer and each day seems to dribble over tasks left undone into the next until the days are too full and so much seems left undone, unfinished or forgotten.
i looked around the room, and my eye tripped on my first born.
Her blond hair was tied up in a bun with a few wisps framing her pixie face with those impossibly huge eyes and Neil's familiar forehead.
"Hey Cai..." i said without thinking, "You should pick. It'll be one of the last books we read while you're in our school..."
She barely hesitated.
"i pick the Narnia Chronicles. Might as well end with what we started with..."
i remember buying the series before she ever started school... i don't know how many times I've read those books to our little home academy in these past 12 years, but i know that by now, the covers bend easily into place, and that when i get to a familiar passage, there is more than one child who is able to mouth the words and mimic my voice and inflection... i know that they laugh at me for crying, but that they cry too. Imperfect allegory that it may be, it has been a vehicle that has opened up our hearts to Truth and to ideas about faith, relationships and heaven...
i smiled. It was perfect.
Someone ran to grab The Magician's Nephew.
"We'll have time for at least one or two before i graduate, right?"  I do the math in my head.
Her last exam looms just over 2 months away...
Surely we have time for at least one or two, don't we?
i tried to laugh past the lump in my throat...  "Maybe you'll still do devotions with us in the mornings before you head off to college next year..?"
i cleared my throat and pretended to read the first line, purposefully saying the words all wrong...
"This is a story... about a girl named Dori and now my story's begun..."
"That's not how it starts!"
They know when I'm bluffing, stalling...
i started again, and this time, i continued. i ignored the squeaking baby and the fidgeting little ones and i read - like i do every morning - like i'll continue to do... after she graduates... when this little school is just a part of a jumbled mess of her memories from childhood...

"This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child. It is a very important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our own world and the land of Narnia first began..."

Gagey, at only six years old, is unfamiliar with the story line. His blue eyes threatened to glaze over, but i stopped and the older ones animatedly explained and gave context... i kept glancing up as i read to see his reaction to Digory, Polly... and the terrifying Uncle Andrew. I tried not to lose him.
And i vow never to lose her.

It's a fine beginning to his schooling....

And it will make a fine ending to hers.

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