Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reflecting on 2013

I can't honestly say that my brain has registered this whole ¨New Year¨ thing. It will be January 1, 2014 in an hour, and I am still processing that it is December. 2013 has come and gone so quickly, yet I feel that the past 365 days could have easily contained several years.

This year was the first year of my whole adult life (which I count as having started the day I found out I was pregnant with Leilani) in which I was not smothered under the nauseating weight of anxiety, or troubled by wafting depression. Jesus killed it dead, and it stayed in the ground this year. It feels like the color yellow. All the time. Sometimes things are a little mustardy, less chipper and bright, but still savory. But usually, if I close my eyes, I can breathe deep and feel Yellow. Bright, alive, promising and joy. I saw sunlight dance on the dust this year, I felt the beauty in pain this year, I tasted the delicious of the Goodness of the Lord and was filled by it in ways I never have been before.

This year, I met my Beanboy, and have watched him grow from a tiny raisiny infant into a full fledged Boy child. I have realized that my toddler truly isn't a toddler anymore, she has sprouted into a preschooler, with strong opinions and long legs and delightful vocabulary. My children are growing up, and this year, I really noticed. I love these little years. I don't think I realized it until this year. I love my babies and it tugs painfully on my heart sometimes to see their beautiful faces and glimpse a whisper of their grown-up selves. I know I will embrace every stage of their rapid ascent into adulthood and independence, but for now I am savoring their round cheeks and praying for a heart that remembers these moments.

I think I also met my husband this year. Is that weird? That sounds strange. But I think I really did. I married this great guy several years ago and I thought he was pretty awesome, but I think that the Lord gave me the gift of new eyes, because the man I live life with looks totally different to me lately. Its like I was living in a 3D movie without the glasses. Then all of a sudden, I put a pair on, and those weird lines on the side of things made sense and the fuzzy squiggly guy that was walking around all far away popped off the screen in nearby, colorful clarity. I am gaining new understanding of the details that make him so perfectly him, and I am realizing more every day how sweetly the Lord has loved me in His gift of Ryan. This was and is a big deal.

The biggest thing though? The biggest thing was Satisfied. I asked Jesus to give me a word this year, a word to focus on and learn about. And He gave me Satisfied. He told me that I needed to know that He alone is enough to Satisfy my soul. Satisfaction goes beyond learning to be content. Contentment implies that one has found oneself in a circumstance or situation, and chosen to be at peace with it. To me, Satisfaction starts with choosing the situation and circumstance itself. Good or bad. I needed to learn not to accept whatever the Lord brought my way, I needed to learn instead to want it. My soul could not be satisfied by merely accepting that His will, His will had to become my will. I needed to learn how to count everything as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. And that meant that I needed to learn how to embrace some hard things because it meant embracing Jesus.

So I asked Him to fill all the achy, empty places of my soul, and He did. When I needed rest, He satisfied. When I was lonely, He satisfied. When I wanted to be held, He satisfied. When I needed to be understood, He satisfied. When I needed to know that I was adored and pursued and valued, He satisfied. The spiritual, the physical, the mundane and the extraordinary. Every moment in which I found myself discontent or wanting, He. Satisfied. I think this word will follow me through the rest of my life. I forget it so quickly and I need to be reminded of it daily. There is enough truth in Satisfied to feast on forever, and after a year of meditating on it, I am ready to take it with me into this year too.

So this year was a big year for me. A year of new, a year of yellow, a year of fresh and a year of Satisfaction in Christ. I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and I am truly thankful for all of the joy that He brought my way in 2013.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Home for the Holidays- Musings on the subject.

Today, the spicy aroma of dahl and curries punctuate the air. I have spent nearly seven years of holidays with their friendly presence, and after many months away, they in particular, remind me that we are "home for the holiday." Outside is brisk, cold breezes dance with our cheeks and noses. The bite is refreshing as we rush from door to car, car to door. I had almost forgotten what "cold" was, in my new warmer climate. English bobs into Tamil and back again, the fan over the stove whirs, cabinets are open and shut, children exclaim and the National Cathedral Choir sings over the television.

Yesterday, my parents signed stacks of papers, and sold my childhood home in Fulton. Over the summer, they moved West, ten hours closer to our Memphian habitat. Mom, Dad and siblings three now live in West Tennessee, while the oldest four of us are scattered between Texas and Maryland. My heart feels glad and at peace with where we all call "home," but I admit, I shed a tear or two and sighed a nostalgic sigh at (pardon the dramatics) The Passing of an Era.

So many Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas mornings were spent as a family in our sprawling rancher. Dad would always have a popping fire burning in the woodstove, Mom would have a candle and oil lamps lit with some festive CD playing in the background. Someone would inevitably be cranky and bickering would momentarily ensue, before general cheer and anticipation was restored. It was "just" us. Seven children spanning 13 years, Mom and Dad, Donna and the cats. A twinkling tree for Christmas, and Granny and Poppa and Dave, Vallie and Sophia on Thanksgiving. It always felt full and busy, and it was home.

Then Ryan waltzed into my heart and life, and our family holidays combined. Thanksgiving would begin at his parents in the fresh morning while family trickled in bearing loads of food. The cousins' little ones would tear through the house screaming happily, usually chased by a growling Unkie Ryan, aunties and uncles would chatter amicably, food was eaten at leisure in every room and enjoyed by all. For dinner, we would drive back to Fulton for traditional turkey fare, with my family. We would all smoosh around one table and eat till only Mom and Ryan were left sitting, usually chatting over their plates till dessert was clamored for. Christmas was much the same, but we would begin with breakfast in my parent's toasty dining room, devotions, advent candle and gifts by the tree and woodstove, before heading to his aunts for lunch and dinner. We got married and added a grandchild to the mix, holiday affairs got spread to other days occasionally, we bustled back and forth, from table to table.

With our exodus to Memphis, holidays look different, so far spending only Christmas in Maryland last year, and only Thanksgiving this year. Home is Memphis, but "going home" has still been flying back to Maryland, and Fulton. I only moved once as a child, and Fulton is where I grew up. My family has felt farther and farther away as we have all grown and spread, but at last, the Fulton chapter has closed, and their Jellico, Tennesse chapter has begun in earnest. I think that this year, for the first time, I am sensing a shift in my heart towards "home." For a long time, home meant Fulton to me, and as Fulton emptied and as the For Sale sign was posted, I felt such a sense of loss. As distance grew between the traditional "just us" Spinolos in Fulton, and as our little Abel family grew, and we moved west, I am finding that "going home" truly means going "where the heart is." Looking back at the holidays I have spent with Ryan's family, I realize that they were spent in various homes, with different configurations of family and foods, but that I only really remember them all as being at "home." I know it sounds strange to only just now be realizing it, but home is where my family is.

Home is with my Abels, Mom and Dad and Tanya, and family is cousins, babies, aunties and uncles. Home is colors and spices and accents and happy commotion. The location of our gatherings and the number of our attendees changes from year to year, but Home is with my Abels, wherever they may be.

And now, Home is where my Spinolos are, in Tennessee. There are entirely new traditions to create, a new house to fill with memories, and even new family to discover and embrace. I can't wait to watch as we establish new migration patterns, now encompassing the opposite corner of Tennessee.

We have gone home for the holidays, and are in an entirely different house, but are still just as at home as ever. I miss my Spinolo family, but I am excited as they start this new journey and I eagerly await the time when we get to visit!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thankful- True Love

Love does not always sound like a sonnet whispered romantically by moonlight. It does not always have sweet nothings to impart or compliments to lavishly bestow. It does not always appear, debonair and armor clad, carrying roses or riding a steed. Love does not always come in pretty little packages tied up with string, by candle light, with the soulful strains of a violin giving voice to the passionate throb of our hearts. Love does not always appear with a kiss in the rain, or a held hand in the dark, or with the sweeping off of one's feet.

In fact, I would argue that True Love looks very different, because in the absence of these things, in the absence of traditional "romance," what is left? What songs does a heart sing when it is covered in and worn down by a life that doesn't smell like roses, one that tends to blow out the candles and that quite often leaves us with no words at all? What eloquence can the sojourn of Romance whisper when two hearts beat true beneath the weight of real life that often lacks dazzle and neat bows?

(photo cred: Rebekah Joy Photography) 

It sounds like the rustle of a weighty trash bag, tied off and hauled out in the early morning, before even the sun has woken up.

It looks tired and sudsy, washing a sink full of dishes, hours after an already long day has ended.

It sounds like whispered shushing, and a soft rise and fall of breathing, as it cradles a restless infant head in the last hours of a night that was already too short, so that I can snuggle warm, instead of pacing cold.

It looks like diligence, day after day, going out and working long, to then come home as fast as possible, to the loud, the untidy, the often cranky and unlovely.

It sounds like laughter, when unexpectedly covered in unfortunate substances, deposited enthusiastically by smelly little offspring.

It looks like a clean room, a boon that came mere hours after my sigh over the futility of my efforts to catch up with all that there is to do.

It may not praise me on the rare day of a new dress and a done up face, but it comes home every day and looks unflinchingly at my unwashed, unbrushed self, covered in baby smells and residue, and loves.

It may not exude declarations of adoration in unprompted moments of ardor, but it lavishly heaps moments of thoughtfulness, hours of service, days and days of tireless love.

It may not sound like accolades over a well cooked, impressively presented feast, but it eats uncomplaining the burnt, undercooked, bland, uninspired and underwhelming.

It may not sound like a sonnet or look like passion, but it is. This is the Truest Love of my life, and it is eloquent and sings to my heart.

Ryan, thank you for being the Love of my life. Thank you for serving me and ours tirelessly. Thank you for sharing the crazy and making the mundane so rich. Thank you for teaching my heart what True Love looks and sounds like, and for calling me Wife, and calling this often messy chaos Home. I love you. And I am so deeply thankful for you.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thankful- Leilani Edition

What are some things you are thankful for?

"Stuffed animals because they are furry."
"My kitchen because it is smooth and pink."
"My desk because it is fun to play in and keeps my stuff safe."

What are some foods that you are thankful for?

"Carrots because Jesus made them and they taste like honey."
"You mean sweet?"

Who are some people that you are thankful for?

"Daddy. I love him."
"Why do you love him?"
"Because he first loved us." (Yes. This was her answer.)

Oh Lani girl. You are amazing. Watching you blossom in your new role as a big sister has been an utter joy. You love your little brother with an intensity and dedication that is precious to behold. You are such a little mother to him, and you take your job as his supervisor very seriously. Often, you will inform me when he needs a meal, a diaper or holding, usually after singing loudly to him. I love watching him respond to your sweet silliness, he just adores you, and rightfully so. (Right now, you are singing "Mr Handsome, Mr Handsome, heaverrry heaverry hoindy WIPE. LITTLE baybee hm hm hm OO! The bigger as your Daddy. My my mine mine mine. Mr footie highness." above his tipped over, raspberry blowing self.)

Your eye for detail thrills me. You notice the twinkles in the concrete, the flashes of sunlight reflecting off of dust, the way a long legged insect looks like a little fairy. You love crafting, and glue, and cutting things to peices just for the joy of it. It doesn't matter to you if the finished product is impressive, or even if there IS a finished product. You just create for the joy of it. I can learn so much from that attitude. 

You are so smart. Today I discovered that you could add and subtract 1 from any number 1-5. That is pretty impressive, especially considering that I never taught you how. You are learning your letters completely independent of me, and you remember auditory details that amaze me. 

You sing ALL day long, and you have a fascination with "God's TRUE Word" (Thank you Bible Study Fellowship). You are learning to love the Lord even now, and you challenge me hourly to practice what I preach. Thank you for pushing me forward, and for pushing me to my knees. My heart needs the refining fire that you are. 

Daily you challenge me to love more selflessly, to teach more patiently, and to "STOP talking Mama" and just listen. Thank you for loving me despite my numerous failings. Thank you for your vivacity and enthusiasm, thank you for your endurance as I try and fail so frequently at learning the wonder of you. 

Leilani, I am so deeply, deeply thankful for You

Sunday, September 29, 2013


The heavy aroma of spices filled her kitchen, as curries and dal, heated on the stove. I watched admiringly as she kneaded water into four, a splash here, another splash there, till it formed a dense ball of dough in the bottom of her bowl. She told me it was a simple process, making fresh roti, but I watched her, fascinated, knowing it was simple only after years of practice. Fingertips scooped a handful and rolled. A small piece was consistently twisted off and pressed back into the large mound of waiting dough. A small rolling pin was deftly employed, making a sphere into a perfect flat circle. She would roll, readjust the dough, and roll again until satisfied. Then with a flick of her wrist, it would meet a hot pan, where it would swell into a large bubble of fragrant bread before deflating into two layers and being stacked into a waiting dish.

Her practiced gestures spoke of hundreds of warm roti. Her palms and fingertips knew by touch the perfect size, the right texture, they shaped and kneaded with skill. I saw art in what felt to her as a common process. I saw beauty in the simplicity and could feel the hours spent kneading, rolling, and loving her family in that kitchen.

I so enjoy watching people do what they do, and do it well. Sometimes it is intentional, other times, it is "just making roti." Sometimes it looks like bright oils on a canvas, other times it looks like a precisely made up bed, edges and corners tucked in, just so. Sometimes it sings hallelujahs with a chorus, and sometimes it rises and falls with the silly voices living inside a bedtime story. Sometimes it looks like bravery and heroism, sometimes it looks like humble diligence, day after day. Sometimes it tames wild things, swims with the exotic, or studies the rare, and sometimes it knows exactly where to scratch, on a faithful, furry domestic head, calm and sweet. Sometimes it leaps and twirls with grace and rhythm, sometimes it rocks, back and forth, hips swaying to a quietly hummed lullaby. Sometimes it transforms neighborhoods and breathes life and redemption into blighted streets, and sometimes it wipes a table, sweeps a floor, or washes peanutbuttery cheeks, over, and over, and over. Sometimes it preaches words of radical wisdom, changing the future by changing hearts, thousands at a time, and sometimes it quietly shepherds a disobedient little one to repentance and understanding. Sometimes it produces exciting, grand events, manages big businesses, or leads a movement of reform, and sometimes it bakes a birthday cake, balances the checkbook, or leads a classroom of little elementary learners.

I think what I am trying to say is, what you do is beautiful. I bet if you looked closer at your mundane, you would find finesse. You love and serve and create every day. Sometimes it gets framed and hung on a wall, sometimes it gets an award, or wins a bonus or receives an accolade, but sometimes, it is quiet, simple, slow and unnoticed. But it is beautiful.

You are marvelous and what you do is amazes me.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


"The Lord. HE is my Shepherd.

 I do not and shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

 He restoreth my soul."

The sunlight filters through the leaves almost every morning, and its delicate shadows are mimicked by the ones cast by my lacy curtains, hung on every window.

From my bed in my wood paneled upstairs room, I can see only branches and leaves through our two big windows. I feel a frequent smile as I remember on mornings like these, that I live in Sherwood Forrest. The romance and enticement from many page bound adventures have followed me from childhood to delight me now as I watch the mornings settle comfortably into themselves.

 I love the way each blade of grass becomes backlit by early sunlight. The way shadows seem to accent and highlight at this time of day, rather than conceal. A bird trills, close by my treehouse room, and I feel a little thrill. I love listening to birds sing out their Goodmornings.

 My baby rustles, and my little feathery wisp of a girl tiptoes upstairs, and I pile each into bed with me. The one with the drooly lip, gurgles and searches for his breakfast, which I give him, while his sister chatters about her dreams from the night before.

It could be Monday, or a dreaded "hump day." Any day. My heart no longer sinks as the sun rises. Instead I feel peace.

 Peace does not come naturally to my anxious temperament. Ordinary tasks such as laundry and bathroom tidying are wont to push me into stress. The daily cares of mothering my little ones have the ability to become insurmountable mountains, foes to my calm. Anything and everything, I can pile like stones into a wall, blocking the warming sunlight from my heart, leaving it cold, weary and restless.

But He restoreth my soul. His mercy and grace is new every morning. And more often than not, I am finding that can feel it.

The wings of my heart do not batter and struggle anymore, as if caged. Rather, His beautiful peace blows soft underneath, and I find I can soar. In my lack of control and foresight of my future, I do not want.

Oh what marvelous peace. What blissful rest. My heart has tasted the Good and Seen. He hath made me to lie down. My pastures are green. The waters are calm and still.

I can not claim that I have achieved some zen-like state of inner tranquility, no. I am but a fretful sheep, stumbling and moaning through each valley. But I think for the first time, I am beginning to see the Shepherd, and to be truly aware of His presence. And this makes me fear no evil, for HE is with me.

I have so far to go. The journey ahead is one paved with much unknown, much worry and much to fear. But. He leadeth me ever on. And in the presence of my fears, He has made me to lie down. 

Today, tomorrow, they could bring much. Tears will still stain my face, aches will still stab. But Joy. JOY is in the following of the Shepherd and I fear no evil.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Five Minute Friday- RED

1. Write for 5 minutes flat for pure unedited love of the written word. 
2. Link back here and invite others to join in. Here’s how. 
3. Be generous and leave an encouraging comment for the person who linked up before you. 

Five Minute Friday



Red. Immediately, my red pillow comes to mind. Its from IKEA. We love it there. Its been a good pillow, it has cushioned many a back and bun, little and big heads alike. It is missing a button or two, from the back of its long, rectangular removable cover. It holds a tired slouch alongside its black and white printed twin, in the corner of our sectional couch. It has propped up a computer on my lap, a sketchbook in creative moments, and two little babies just learning how to sit. It has survived spaghetti sauce spills in three homes, and has journeyed hundreds of miles with us, bringing with it memories of many late night laughs and dinners. It is a comfortable pillow, filled with down that sometimes wiggles its way out. I have never really thought about it before. But tonight, I discover that I rather like this slumped over, well used red rectangle. It is a part of what makes my home homey. Here is to you, red pillow. I salute your uncomplaining service and am thankful for your companionship.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I can feel it in my bones...

Its beautiful. The sun shines down on green, leafy life. Children can be heard laughing as they play, birds flit and sing, the air is warm and soft.

It is easy. We rest, sleep is usually long enough. Anxiety has been banished. Employment satisfies and supports, what a rare, unfamiliar gift. Our young ones grow in health and in learning and amaze us more every day.

It is comfortable. There is space about us. There are enough arms to hold the little lives that fill our rooms with happy noise, and somehow, there are enough hours in the day to love them well.

We have enough. The mouths are fed. Tummies are full. Backs are clothed and still there is more. Our cups runneth over.

This season of life is the most comfortable that Ryan and I have ever shared.

But a breeze is starting to blow. The leaves are starting to turn over and I can feel a prickle on the back of my neck as the wind changes. I can smell rain, moist and wet, and everything feels hushed and expectant.

I look forward and see not ominous storm clouds, but heavily weighted, billowing, momentous mountains, promising... what I am not sure. I am not apprehensive or anxious, but I can see them approach.

A change is coming. Hard work lies ahead. I can feel it in my bones.

Friday, July 26, 2013

FMF: Broken

Linking up with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday.

Prompt: BROKEN

Five minutes of unedited writing.


Sometimes the things that seem the most broken, are the things that in fact, are the most whole.

Last year was a wake up year for me. I wept over so much. "Father! It is so broken. It is not what it needs to be." I felt overwhelmed by the cracks I saw everywhere. By the incomplete picture that seemed to look at me mockingly. By the imperfection. I saw brokenness and it broke me. It burst something deep inside, and I felt like I would bleed out.

It caused me to fall to my knees in a way I never had before. Heaviness pushed me to the ground in urgent, desperate need. I was broken. We were broken.

He met me there, on the ground. He held my hand and said "Daughter, you are so, so beautiful. You are precious to Me in ways you will never understand. That ache you feel? I put that there. I gave you that ache so that you would understand how My heart aches for you."

And there, on the ground, I met wholeness. I saw the picture. Reflecting from what I thought were fragments, I saw the picture of Christ and His church, clear as day, sharply outlined... for me. With the glue of a heart change, the brokenness ended. I met the Lover of my soul, and in meeting Him, I found new grace and new love. With a new heart, I found healing. With His heart, I found wholeness in the broken places.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Brief Epistle to Home

Memphis, oh Memphis.

You are oppressively hot, humid, and far away from people that I love. Your roaches of extraordinary size waterbugs are beyond compare and I feel landlocked and cranky without an in-reach ocean.

But I love you. We "chose the 901" last year, and I am hooked.

I love your roads, even the ones that leave me stuck behind slow moving trains, I love your unrelenting sunshine that leaves me sweating and longing for fall. I love your unusual penchant for yielding plentiful farmer's markets and locally produced, delicious restaurant fare. I love your Botanical Garden and Zoo, splash pads and central library, thank you for these favorite daytime nooks.

I love your history. You are steeped in it. Unlike my sadly watery iced tea, you can taste the strongly brewed past that has baked deep into your brick and concrete. There is so much that I do not know about you, but I am intrigued by the hurts and hallelujahs that have made you who you are. I want to know more.

I love that I can taste my history in your avenues and byways. Everywhere I find myself, I imagine my father and grandfathers and the lives they lived within your sprawl, all a part of building you into the city you are. In farms and gas stations, stoneyards and hospitals they worked and dreamed, and with you, I feel closer to the Spinolos, Hancocks and Christies whose blood runs in my veins.

I love your "Memphians," who have become so either by birth or by choice. You are a city of many underserved, but a city of many who serve. Never have I personally experienced such strong evidence of the hand of God working in the hearts of so many, committed to being His hands and feet. They are my brothers and sisters, friends of only a few months, but already a part of my heart.

Yes, I complain about train whistles, bugs, far off distance and heat. Forgive me these gripes, for truly, I am grateful to be here. The days I have spent in your company have been some of my hardest, but also some of my richest. I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, in the "Land of the Delta Blues," and I am forever thankful that I have called you Home.

Today, I am happy to be in my motherstate, hundreds of miles away, but I am homesick for the 901, and I am ready to be home.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

One Year in Memphis

May 28th marked the completion of our first year in Memphis, Tennessee.

One year ago, I would have been amazed at the way life looks now. We live in a house, we have two children, we drive a van, I enjoy cooking and baking (say wha?), Ryan has a wonderful new job that looks quite different than we imagined it would, the Lord dramatically changed my heart, and we are surrounded by what feels like an entire city of fabulous new friends who have quickly become our Memphis family. Blessings have dripped down in a steady downpour, and we have been soaked through in the gracious goodness of the Lord.

Last year was hard. Some of those days felt like months, but looking back, those months feel like just days. Much of 2012 was a hard, hard fight that felt much like swimming upstream of some choppy, uncomfortable rapids. But standing soaked on the other side of those waters, with the hot summer sun beating down on us, we can see the washing of Grace, and the showers of blessing.

We walked into new spaces last summer, and the Lord said "you are home." They felt empty, unknown, hot and intimidating. Summer, fall, winter and spring came and went, and we walked out of those spaces, but we left them echoing with prayer, happy laughter, and the sounds of new life. I found that I would miss those little rooms, and that the people who had first walked through our doors as strangers had become dear to my heart. The community that we shared with that crowd of now familiar friends, was something terrifically tremendous that can't really ever be replicated in the same way. I am so deeply thankful for the mothers that raised their children with me, the wives that cried and prayed with me, the friends that sat on our chairs and filled our table and our hearts.

You all brought and bring us such joy. Thank you for making a new life with us, and for making it so full. Memphis is home now, really truly, and it is home because of yall!

Thank You, Lord, for Memphis and for our first year in our new home.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Two Months Old

Already? How. Is. This. Possible.

If I am being honest, I can hardly remember what it was like for this darling boy to not be in our arms. Two months feels so... old. But at the same time, how has he only been in my life for just days? 

I am absolutely smitten by this child. Two weeks ago, all four of his grandparents, and all three of his great grandparents were in town, here to meet him for the very first time (and to celebrate Ryan's graduation). He started smiling for the first time the day before they arrived. His grins and coos knock me off my feet.

This little man is quite hefty. I am estemating that he is around 11-12 pounds right now. He is due for his 2 month checkup, so I guess we will find out soon! He is eating so well. We faced some significant nursing challenges early on, but the Lord has been so gracious, and things are going smoothly at this point. Not perfect yet, but huge gains have been made, both literally and metaphorically speaking. And folks, the boy sleeps. Remember the 13+ crazy sleepless months we battled through with Leilani before I got more than 3 straight hours of sleep consistently? No? Well golly. I sure do. And at two months old, the boy sleeps at night. Hours straight. Four hours happens consistently! Sometimes six in one stretch! SIX. Let the awe wash over you. I didn't know it was possible to feel this rested with a baby in the house. Praise the Lord that we discovered swaddling. And this little bed from target has not hurt either. I am just giddy with relief. Mama doesn't have to function as a zombie this time round.

I can not adequately express how incredible the past two months have been. They have truly been miraculous and drenched in Grace. I spent so much of Leilani's early days overwhelmed by anxiety, exhaustion and struggled with postpartum depression for months. So much joy was missed in the midst of it all.

I shared earlier how the Lord has been working in my heart, and how He utterly conquered my anxiety in an incredible way. The transition from one to two children, and the adjustment back into newborn care has not been easy. In fact, parts of it have been significantly challenging. But folks. I. Am. Free. I have been utterly flooded by His grace, and though I have let my fatigue and inexperience frustrate me, and though I have been more cranky than I ought at times, not even once has that sickening anxiety ever clutched at my heart.

I faced possibly loosing breastfeeding. And my heart hurt, I wept and my head spun with "Ok, so what now?" But I was not sick. My little one struggled with a lip and tongue tie that required a revision by a specialist in Nashville when he was just two weeks old. The trip was a huge misadventure, but through it all we saw the hand of the Lord, and I did not spiral into an internal meltdown. I am tired and often overwhelmed with the responsibility of raising two children, but I have not been paralyzed by my weakness, because the Lord has said HE is my strength. I have lost even more freedom and personal space and selfish time, and I have not been depressed by the sacrifice. This is not natural, yall. God has done some mighty things to prepare me for the incredible gift of my son. I am so far from having it all down. When you read these exultations, please don't see anything other than a heart utterly full of gratitude. I am so flawed and so impatient and so unworthy of these children. But oh, my Savior has the power to conquer all of that. I am watching Him do it.

And I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

The joy. Oh the joy that He has given me in my little boy. I am amazed by how powerful it is. Again, I am learning about His Love in a whole new way. It looks like this:

His grace is oh, so sweet. There is power in His blood. Whatever you are facing, whatever burdens your heart carries, He can heal you. He healed me. "This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." (Ps. 34:6) Cry out. He can save you!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The day we met You.

At about 3:30 a.m. in the early dark of April 2, I knew that I would be seeing you that day. Sitting on a big rubber ball, leaning over the end of our bed, I felt tears prick my eyes in response to the thrill that accompanied that realization. You were coming! Contractions had been clenching and relaxing, quite uncomfortably, for over an hour. Several minutes apart, I wobbled through them astride my borrowed ball, while your Daddy tracked their times, and made sure all was prepared for our departure, and your arrival. All of our theoretical plans fell behind in the rush of reality, there was no time left for tidying up or cleaning out the bathroom, or changing the sheets, all things I had wanted to have done before we brought you home.

On the phone with your Grammy, I talked through the discomfort, and through my hesitancy to really accept that today was The Day. Your sister came slow, with pauses and halts, as my body learned how to do this miracle for the first time. You came steady and sure from the first moment. Without missing a beat, my body moved with a confidence I didn't feel so sturdily in my heart. I knew you would come, and I knew that the work ahead was something I was built for, but I still felt a quaver, and my prayers for strength and ability flew heavenward.

You see, I wanted to bring you forth myself. I wanted to feel it all. I wanted to truly know what my body did to bring you to our arms. I wanted to experience a strength that was not of myself, and to do something so powerful that one could only give God the glory. I wanted to do the work I was created for, and I wanted to do it holding your Daddy's hand, with no other assistance than that which came from my Creator. And I did. But that was several hours later.

At 4:00 a.m. we decided that we needed to get to the hospital. Discomfort had become pain, and I knew I would not be able to cope in the car as things became more intense. We called a sleeping neighbor to come up to be with your sister, and like a hero, she quickly came. Words and a prayer of encouragement were given, last minute items packed, and then Leilani called out from her room. Relieved, we were able to kiss her goodbye and excitedly whisper "Baby Brother is on his way! He will be here today!" I had not wanted her to wake up without us there to tell her where we had gone. Even in her sleepiness, her excitement was huge. She wanted you to come as much as we did!

Sitting in the front seat of the car, with a pillow clutched tightly to my chest, we sped off onto the empty, dark road. I felt every little bump on that ride, and every red light and stop sign felt like ages. Near the end, your Dada looked both ways, and charged through those empty intersections, as eager as I was to get to the end of the drive.

When we arrived at the hospital, walking felt like an impossible task. So I was wheeled, eyes shut, holding the big ball on my lap, up to Labor and Delivery. How surreal it all felt. Today! Right now! My excitement still lingered, but it was muffled under quite a lot of anxious anticipation. How hard would it be? I slid off the wheelchair and onto the ball at the counter, while your Daddy filled out the paper work. Aware only that I must look a sight and sound a bit frightful, I rode out those contractions, too tired and in too much pain to care much. A nurse came and wheeled me down? Over? Up? to telemetry while Daddy ran to park the car and bring up our things. That was a long hour. I was nervous while I waited for the nurse to tell me how far into labor I was. Worried that I had been fighting my muscles all that time, and anxious that I had not progressed, the announcement of 4cm! at 5:15 a.m. was both a relief and a concern. I had a lot of work left to do. We could hear your heart beating, strong and steady, the reassuring sound would only stop when the belt-monitor would slide down my belly during a contraction. I was riding them out, but they were taking their toll. I was tired, and the pain only increased.

At last Daddy came back and he took me up to the delivery room. As I was wheeled under the door way, I had another rush of excitement in the midst of the discomfort, "I will see my little boy for the first time in THIS room!" The dim quietness of the room was only disturbed every few moments by my attempts at coping with each contraction. The anesthesiologist came by twice, perhaps summoned by my painful exclamations. Daddy answered a firm "No, thank you. We are doing this naturally." when he offered an epidural, and to his inquiry of "any chance you will change your mind?" I was able to mutter a determined "No" despite the doubts in my mind. With your sister, I was heavily numbed by that point, I never got to find out how I would react under that level of pain. We discovered with you, that I am a very vocal birther. I could not seem to visualize anything helpful, or relax, or find a more comfortable position. The only thing that seemed to help was loud moans or yells. My thoughts during this time consisted of "I really hope a new mommy is not anywhere within hearing range of me. I am probably scaring her into an epidural before she has even tried." "There is no reason why I can not do this. Every contraction is one step closer. EVERY contraction? SO MANY. Focus. One. At. A. Time." and frequent "Oh Lord. This is so hard. No more please? I CAN NOT DO THIS." But your Daddy was strong and confident for me, and told me many times, "You ARE doing this. You are stronger than these contractions. You. Can. Do it." and by the grace of God, I did.

As I transitioned, I was left whimpering at the end of each surge. My body was doing powerful things, and I felt like I was being torn apart. Fully aware of every sensation, I began to feel a need to bear down in the midst of each contraction, and I wondered if we were close. Little did I know, you would be in my arms in only 45 more minutes. Perhaps it was the changed intensity in my hollering that brought a nurse quickly into the room, and somehow I managed to get onto the delivery bed. My gasping mind prayed that I would be almost done, and that I would be stretched enough to let you out. Too in pain to let relief register, I heard "Wow! You are a full 10! There is nothing but a big bubble in there. He is coming." and immediately felt struck by the realization that "Now. He is coming Now." Suddenly the room was full of motion. Nurses came in, and an on call doctor began to quickly suit up. I was positioned for the big moment, and everyone waited, expectantly. My doctor arrived and began to trade positions with the on call physician. She seemed to be moving very slowly and I felt as though the expectancy was broken. Not for me. I was bearing down with every yell, and I very strongly remember thinking while the others got things ready that "I do not care if they are ready or not. This baby needs to come out. NOW." and pushing well before they instructed me to. Thankfully, they were ready when you were, and you did not make it out before the doctor was ready to catch you.

I will never forget that half hour. The pain and pressure was incredible. I remember waiting for that feeling I had read about, that it would be a relief to be able to push, but it never came. I felt a building sense of almost panic, the power required to get you out was unbelievable. I have never physically worked harder for anything in my entire life. How could I keep it up and actually get you out? The pressure built to a point where I felt that something would explode, and startlingly, it did. An audible gush, and your warm bubble burst. Within minutes I was informed that "This next part will hurt, you might feel like you are tearing. Don't be afraid, you will be ok." Intentionally, I shoved that bit of unmotivating information to the back of my mind and pushed on towards my one focus, that YOU were coming. And I had to get you out. Right. Now. It hurt. Oh, how it hurt. But you came.

I do not remember what was said, I don't remember anyone else in the whole room, but I remember you. I remember feeling with absolute clarity as your little body came rushing out into the world. I felt you leave. And there you were. 6 hours, almost to the minute, start to finish, and you were here. It was physically the most incredibly difficult thing I have ever done. But oh so beautifully rewarding too.

I can see you clearly, in the hands of the doctor, a purple-pink slippery body covered in hair and varnix. I reached out for you with more than my arms, my whole heart reached out, in that one glimpse. The moments that it took for them to wipe you off and place you on my chest took hours to me. But then your warm, sticky body was pressed tightly to mine again, and this time, I could see your face. Round and puffy, with eyes determinedly shut, you found your way immediately into the deepest place in my heart. Oh how wet with life you were. I could feel your newness in an inexpressible way. It is hard to explain how empty, yet full of you I felt, and a month later still feel.

Every time I feel you sleepily wiggle beside me, I remember those same wiggles from the inside. Every time my shoulders feel sore from the precious weight of you in my arms, I remember the heaviness of what it was to carry you within my very core. You are so very, very dear Ezra. Your Daddy, big sister and I love you so much. Welcome, welcome, welcome.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Spring has unseasonably delayed its Memphian arrival this year. We have had a sprinkling of sunny days and warm temperatures, but mostly, it has been several months of days painted with a little-varying pallete of grey, wet and cold.

Drip, drip, goes the sky, making mud of the fresh mulch and soothing the parched winter ground that still retains its brittle shroud. Drip, drip goes the sky, while impossible metal weights soar loudly, unseen behind mute cloudcover

Bubbles form on the tops of puddles and tiny sidewalk potholes fill with mirrors. Sodden and lackluster, leafless and brown. Yet. There is a whisper of new life in the damp air.

The air feels cool on bare arms, but not biting, and closer observation of leafless branches reveal blushing buds and a mist of greening fists push their way up from dirt and twig, soon to unfurl. Life is whispering to the deadened. Wet is quenching the dry. Warm is melting the gloomy chill.

Spring is coming.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Today's prompt (from Five Minute Friday) is Remember. When I think backwards, I find stacks of memory pictures. Still images, sound bytes and short movements, smells, flavors and sounds, more like scratch and sniff stickers than a live action film.

I started to remember, intending to stop in five minutes, but a paper cut required a band aid, a cousin called, and then a song came on and Ryan decided we needed to have a dance party. Needless to say, five minutes came and went. But I like looking back, much like I enjoy flipping through old photo albums. Some memories hold mere images, but others evoke more. So I will write today, for longer than five minutes, and attempt to capture some of these memories that waft through my musings. I invite you to look through them with me, this stack of Polaroid thought.

I look down. I see a belly button, bare toes and a diaper. I look up, I see a little wooden table, with big wooden blocks, heaped on top. Both handmade and gifted by Daddy. I am two.

A circle in a culdesac, with three tall trees. A pink bike that I ride in a loop, townhomes and parked cars enclosing my route. Stopping by my Dad, we begin to talk. There on the blacktop, in summer shorts, he asked "If you were to go to heaven today, and an angel stopped you at the gate and said 'Why should I let you in?' what would you say?" We talked about grace. We talked about salvation. Dad snagged a moment from the ordinary and left me with a memory. I am six.

A new house. A new backyard. A whole acre of fresh space, a widened horizon of imagination and excitement. A croquet game, a badmitton tourniment. Sword fights and manhunts, tree climbing and falling out of hammocks. A husband and horse, both made out of a tree, a baby made out of a sock, pies and salad made out of mud and leaves. Snow forts on a hill, a thorny trek to a creek in the woods. Scenes from my childhood flash by like crisp leaves falling to the earth. I am nine, and then I am ten.

A heart pang. Self aware and insecure for the first time. The first crush ends badly. Sitting in a closet, I cry quietly. With clothes hanging over my head and a door blocking all the light, I began to question myself, my value and my relationships. That year I entered new circle of peers and encountered "popularity" and "fashion." Tentatively, I began to wade through the unending query of "who am I?" It all started there, the slow, messy climb into maturity. I am in seventh grade.

A dark room, late at night, with hot tears rolling down my cheeks. This heart pang is much deeper, and it cuts me to the quick. This one changes my life. I stretch my hands up towards my Father and open them wide. "I give you my heart." I whisper. And I found that He was holding my hand, and I entwined my fingers with His. Together we stepped out, truly united for the first time. I am eighteen.

A small white box, glowing on my screen in the early morning. It was raining that day, but I didn't know it yet, down in my basement bedroom. Black text flicked in conversation between me and a long time acquaintance newly turned friend. Heart pounding and cheeks blooming, we found that we felt the same, and saw the Lord pointing in the same direction. Together we jumped, and our futures became linked. Nine months later, he got down on one knee, in the grass of my parent's lawn, and asked me a question. I hear crickets and the air is warm and smells of spring. He put a ring on my finger, I first see it glinting by candle light. I said through a drippy face, "Absolutely!" and the commitment was made, there under a canopy of branches. I am nineteen.

"What God has joined together, let no man separate." And then, in front of all our dearest friends, we kiss for the first time. Moist lips, we almost trip, causing a ripple of laughter. I am his and he is mine. I feel the warmth of the new summer sun, and hear the chirping of birds. A journey, begun months before, starting afresh. I am twenty.

She lay in my arms, nine months later, breathing her first breath into my sweaty chest. I remember a tiny face, blinking in bewilderment, and a wet wrinkly body, warm in my arms. A child was born, but so was a mother. I can still see those eyes, reflecting mine. The rest of that day is a blur, but that first minute, I will never forget. I am twenty one.

Summer sunlight, filters through leaves. I look down and see bright green pants, and on them lie a tiny black haired baby. She is round and quiet, looking intently at nothing a few inches above her head. She is waking up to the wide world all about us, and I am waking up to the world of her. She is two months old.

A year ago, I look back, and watch my dark, empty porch disappear around a corner. I have not seen it since. We followed the Lord as He led us, and found ourselves on a different porch, far away from that first one. I loved our porch there, and I have come to love our stoop here. The sunlight shifts differently on each. There, through leaves and branches, here bright, full and hot...

The past has melted into my present. Tomorrow has become today, and I watch a three year old walk past, tugging at the waistband of bright underwear that is to wide for her slim waist. I hear the trickle of rain outside, and feel the rumble of a manchild under my ribs. What will imprint itself as memory from these todays?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sleep at Thirty Seven (Almost!) Weeks: An annoyingly whiny post about Pregnancy

I felt cranky this morning, standing up onto a swollen ankle, waddling off to the bathroom. Heavy, hungry and achy, and ready for The Big Day. This is who I am these mornings.

I climb into bed every night, ready and thankful. But 3 minutes in, the tossing begins. On my right, my bones and baby seem to settle a little more comfortably, but inevitably, an ache will form and then I must hoist my dense self over to the left. Why does rolling and shifting hurt so bad? Back and forth, readjusting pillows, untangling the blankets and trying to stretch without crushing either my vena cava or my infant. Sleep comes, however, and its solid. Until I am awoken by a sharp stab as my inhabitant shifts, and I realize, I must get out of bed and hobble to the bathroom. On the way, my abdomen tightens in a mild contraction, adding greater urgency to my plod down the short hall. Relieved, but stiff all over, I make my way blearily back to bed. I choose to lay back down on the side that is the least sweaty, and I fall back asleep for the next two hours. And repeat, all night, with the occasional grumpy "HONEY! can you roll over?" to my sleeping husband. (I know he appreciates this immensely.)

And then morning comes, and I sit up, ravenous. I feel my littlest one wake up with me and squirm into place, and I feel the bond of mutual general discomfort... Because really, warm and snug as he is, how comfortable can you get, floating upside down in a bubble, with your knees and feet in your face, with your head lodged solidly in a pelvis? I rub the back that pushes firmly from within and murmur to myself and him, "just a few more weeks little one." 

Thankful for a healthy little boy, and for this body that is doing amazing things. Thankful for his wiggly growing body, and my ever stretching, ever swelling, tired one. Thankful for no complications and months of exciting development. Thankful that the time to hold him in my arms has almost arrived.

Thankful too for the bubbly burst of chipper that climbs into my bed and pokes me in the face till I arise to make toast. Crank and grump have a hard time standing up against "Mama, I just love you. Thank you for this toast!" Oh how she woos.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Yellow Front Door

It taunts me today, that yellow front door. It opens on a happy, bright house, full of pretty things. It opens into spaces full of life and living. Color. Creativity. Fresh and inviting. It speaks of new, but whispers of happy tradition and an established sense of itself. Sunny nature surrounds this little oasis of a house, safe and open, ready for unstable toddles and youthful dashes. Green things abound, health and homegrown goodness wait under leaves, tended by curious youngsters. It is a dream. A dream of cheery almost perfection. A dream of plenty and enough to share. A dream of convenient comfort and pretty. A dream of Yellow. And it taunts me with discontent today.

Yellow innocently suggests that I have needs. It whispers that I am not already in possession of "best" and "enough." It says " not today, possibly never, and until then, unsatisfactory." In its piousness, it even implies that a deeper spiritual content awaits only the arrival of more. And this morning I listened. I sighed and ached and shed a tear of impatient pining.

Then. Then the Lord said, "Not yellow, but Gold. I want you to be Gold. Yellow is pretty but pale. It speaks of happy, but not joy. It laughs with enough, but does not glow with Satisfaction. I want you to be Gold.

I want you to shimmer with My presence. I want your home to exude creativity and beauty, not because you live there but because I live there. I don't want your children to laugh and run and explore and grow because they have space and comfort, but because they are full of the Life that only I can give. I want your bodies to be filled with health, not because you have produced freshness and fatness from your soil, but because I have provided your daily bread, and because you have learned to live with simplicity and strengthening exertion. I want you to have Gold, Ruth, not yellow. And when you look in My eyes, you will find that it is already piled in lavish, lovely heaps all about you. When you look at Me, you will find more than Enough. When you look at Me, you will find Satisfaction."

And so I am walking out of that pretty, non existent house, and shutting that yellow front door. I will instead walk through another set of doors, my doors, and into my home. The one where the Lord has put me Today. Into the spaces He has filled with Himself. And in those rooms I will find Satisfaction, because in those rooms I will find Him.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Ordinary

Linking up for Five Minute Friday today, with the word Ordinary. Click the link to find out what it is all about. Then I invite you to join me for five unedited minutes, and write.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.
- See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/2013/03/five-minute-friday-ordinary-2/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+thegypsymama+%28thegypsymama%29#sthash.h3jcVAoZ.dpuf
1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.
- See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/2013/03/five-minute-friday-ordinary-2/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+thegypsymama+%28thegypsymama%29#sthash.h3jcVAoZ.dp
1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.
- See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/2013/03/five-minute-friday-ordinary-2/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+thegypsymama+%28thegypsymama%29#sthash.h3jcVAoZ.dpuf

When I think about ordinary, I think about days like today, people like me. I think of grey skies and slow mornings that don't really seem to be heading towards anything important or specific. I think of changing diapers and washing dishes, and looking in the mirror and going "Oh, hello. You look tired and you should probably shower at some point today." I think about that late naptime moment where she is a little cranky and I am too, and I snap at her unlovingly, really not for any reason other than I forgot to have patience, and I feel confronted with the depth of my own ordinary. Dinners that involve frozen pizza and nothing else, unmade beds and a car that stalls on the way to the grocery store. Ordinary.

But when I reflect on my ordinary, I can't help but be overwhelmed by the incredible amount of extraordinary that fills those moments.

I am privileged to spend 100% of every day with my healthy, happy (usually) child. My Child. My Daughter. She is extraordinary.

I live in a house. By many estimations, it is small and un exciting, but it is walls, roof, indoor plumbing and climate control that most of the people in this world will never experience or imagine.

I have dishes to wash, because they got dirty when we ate food off of them. Food. Plenty. No longer hungry.

I look in the mirror and see such staggering ordinary, and yet somehow, that ordinary is Loved with an Everlasting Love. Somehow He looked at this pile of Not Much and said "Beautifully and wonderfully made. I will die for her."


Five Minute Friday

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Change in Plans?

"A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Proverbs 16:9

We all make plans. If we go about it in the right way, we seek first the Lord, and He is the one who gives them to us. But what happens when, while following His direction, things go suddenly, very awry? What does it mean when The Plan we are confidently following, takes a sharp turn in a direction we never imagined, and suddenly The Plan is no longer clear? Have we taken a wrong step? Has our Leader forgotten to lead and left us spinning our wheels on the side of the road? Has The Plan inexplicably changed? 


Have we been looking to our own understanding for so long, that even when He gives us His Plan, we interpret it based on what we can see and make sense of? He gives us the next step, and we draw up road maps to a self determined end point, and start marking down scenic detours along the way to enhance the journey. He says "Go!" we respond in faith, but then expect the path He has set us on to look a certain way, and are surprised when our view is not as clear as we had imagined. 

Perhaps, in actuality, nothing has "changed." Perhaps The Plan has always been to follow this road, to hit these bumps, to turn here, to stop there. Is it merely our view that has changed, not The Plan itself? God knows where He is taking us. He is not surprised by the twists and turns we encounter. He is not caught off guard when we walk slower, or trip along the way. Our frailness and shortcomings are not strong enough to knock His will aside. His plan is sovereign, and when we are following Him, the plan doesn't change. We do.

We have arrived to the top of a hill, and can suddenly see a little farther ahead, and it looks different than we had imagined. But we are confident that we are still following the same God given plan. We are still on the path He set us on months and months ago, and we are still headed towards the same future that He had always intended. Step by step, day by day, year by year, He is moving us forward. I can't wait to see where He takes us. 
Stay tuned...

Monday, February 18, 2013

To My Ezra

Darling Little Boy.

Do you know that your Mama is absolutely, head over heels in love with you? I have never seen your face, never kissed your cheeks, and I can only assume that you have all 10 toes, since I have never counted them to make sure. Even so. You thrill me, child. I am utterly captivated.

I suspected your presence, several weeks before I knew for sure that you were on your way. My heart was ready for you; the Lord had been pushing back its perimeters to make a you sized space for months. When that little fate-holding stick clearly beamed the word I was eager to see, I sat on the floor and wept tears of joy. You were not even the size of a tiny, green pea, and your Mama loved you.

Your big sister lit a fire in my heart that you have made burn even brighter. She made me a mother, and taught me about what true love really looks and feels like. God used her to begin the melting of my heart, and now He has given me you to help her. I am ready little one, so ready to love you.

You have made yourself quite comfortable, nestled in my middle, and every resulting ache and uncomfortable moment that I feel, is absolutely worth it. Your little body has stretched mine in unalterable ways. My skin bears the marks of your growth, forever streaked by every gained pound, every added inch, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

For 33 weeks, your Creator has been intently crafting your every detail. I am so in awe that He would choose to paint the masterpieces of you and your sister, in me. I can not wait to see you two, sitting side by side, learning from one another and growing in tandem.

You are so strong, my little son. I am amazed by the force of your movements, the determination with which you strain against the confines of my belly. You are already a force to be reckoned with. I pray that the Lord will be your strength, even now, and that from your first breath, He would fill your every molecule with His presence.

Your Dada and I chose your name with great intention and prayer. We asked that the Lord would name you, and we believe that He has. The man you were named after was a man of great bravery. His steadfast commitment to the word of the Lord, deep confidence in His power and unwillingness to back down, changed an entire generation of his people. Ezra called God's people to stand apart, to separate themselves from the surrounding cultures, people and practices that drew them away from the truth. He stood up and demanded that they live according to a higher standard, and to look different from everyone around them. They had begun to blend in, and he reminded them of who they were and of who their God was. And the people listened. They were deeply convicted, and they changed. Ezra was not a great man who effected great change because he was strong in and of himself. He was strong because his God was strong. He was brave because the Lord gave him courage. He spoke out against the complacency of his generation because he was looking heavenward, and saw a great disconnect. We pray that like the man we named you after, you too would be a man who stands with integrity and courage in a generation that is complacent and wayward. We pray that the Holy Spirit would fill you with the same fire that changed an entire generation. We pray that you would never speak and move in your own strength, but that with unshakable conviction, you would hold fast to the Rock that is Higher.

Our hearts are full of you, my son. We can not wait for you to make your way into our arms. You are already so loved and so cherished, both by us and by your Savior.


Your Mama

Friday, February 15, 2013


Linking up again today for Five Minute Friday

This week's word is Beloved.


My daughter. A skinny little three year old, bursting with life, words and imagination. The spoonful of sugar to my every day.

My son. This little tiny infant, who has yet to take his first breath. Small, still forming, but whole in my heart and wholly loved.

You. Formed in the image of God. Painstakingly crafted with infinite care and attention to detail. Every day numbered and filled with purpose, before one of them came to be. Passionately pursued, intensely loved beyond all comprehension.

Me. Unworthy and small. Covered in the love of a Savior, and therefore given immense value. Unable, incomplete, unattractive, unmade by sin. Blood bought, and therefore Able. Complete. Beautiful. Made Whole in His love. 


Friday, February 8, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Bare

Five Minute Friday. "Not a perfect post, not a profound post, just five minutes of focused writing... Throw caution to the wind and just write without worrying if it’s just right gather to share what five minutes buys... Just five minutes."


Bare. This word poses a challenge to me. Bare.

My eyes look up and I see a wall in the hall. It needs some color.

Cold arms on a day that turned out to be a lot cooler than the sunny skies alluded to.

Empty table, cleared counter. Crumb-free, devoid of work to be done.

Feet. Toes with chipping red polish, a bit grubby from frolicking out of doors. Small. Skinny. Like mine.

Bare. Known. Understood. Soul-naked before the eyes of my Creator. No excuses. No pretense. Seen and loved, despite.

Bare. Shimmery sunlight dances with browns and reds, fluffing a little head, like a breeze over the grass.


A Letter to My Toddler

Little girl, where to begin?

In just a few short, short weeks, you will be all of three years old. The days have piled up, and all of a sudden, you are not the baby anymore. We are living our last few weeks together as just Dada, Mama and Lani. It is hard to wrap my heart around that thought. 

I can not tell you what incredible joy you bring me. You are my always companion, my shadow. My days are so very full of you and your cheery self. I miss you when you are not around. Your constant dialogue on the world as you see it, rarely skips a beat. Your words, and funny little tunes and expressions fill my days like a fluffy swirl of confetti. It is hard to be lonely with a little friend like you.

The Lord blesses my heart daily with your loving words and physical nearness. Your affectionate hugs and smooches are bestowed all day long, often followed by your unprompted "thank you"s and words of affirmation. "Mama, do you know something? I just love you." is repeated all through your waking hours. You fill my heart right up, Leilani. And I just love you too.

Your enthusiastic curiosity in the world around you is a delight. I love discovering things alongside of you. Your favorite color is yellow, and it suits you perfectly. Your crayons create piles of firework scribbles every day, and I love how you interpret your lines. You have filled 3 whole sketchbooks in "grasspoppers," imagined letters and numbers, and the faces and scenes in your mind. I can't wait till they begin to take clearer shape on your paper, and I so enjoy watching your motions become more intentional as you color.

Mealtimes sometimes pose challenges to your toddler tastes. Preferences change with unpredictable frequency, but one thing is for sure, you really love "treats." As we have settled into Memphis, you and I have ventured out on many little dates, and it tickles me how excited you get over a surprise french fry, apple juice or a doughnut. You relish your vitamins, and chug your water bottle with enthusiasm, helping to balance out your love of the sweeter things. I am always impressed with your self control when it comes to your treats. You eat just enough to really enjoy it, but already, you know when to say "I am all done." I am proud of you for putting sweets down half eaten, and for picking up your water as quickly as you picked up your juice. Let me just say, for the record, your everyday meals actually do contain nutrients, and snacks and sugars come with regular infrequency. I truly appreciate your declarations of "Mama, that was so yummy! Thank you for the food." You always let me know when my cooking has "hit the spot."

Watching you learn to love the Lord is such a blessing, Leilani. You pray to your "hethenly Fahthur," with great intention, and you give thanks for His blessings freely. Listening to you sing songs you learned in Sabbath school or at Bible study makes me smile, and I love your deep interest in the stories depicted in your colorful Bibles. For some reason, your favorite story is about Samson, and you often read to your dolls, flipping through the pages, smooshing all the stories together into new creations. We will work on the accuracy of your understanding later, but for now, I am so thankful to watch you grow in the Lord.

You are slowly learning about making choices that please Him. I am proud of how you have chosen several times this week to have a happy heart instead of a cranky, sad one, and how you have decided to be patient when it was hard for you. Sharing is still something that you think a lot about, but that your heart struggles with. Your honesty when talking with me about shows how much you really understand, and I know that one day (hopefully soon?) you will have learned to think about others first, and be able to put it into action. Until then, your little buddies seem to love you in the midst of this steep learning curve, and I am thankful for their young patience and friendship.

You sleep so well these days. When you were a littler you, I wondered if you ever would. You ask to go to bed when you are tired, and most naps and nights, fall asleep by yourself. It was a hard learned skill, but you have got it down at last. The earlyish morning sunrise of this current winter has had you popping right up, to climb into bed with me. You wait patiently until your Mama is ready to roll over and start the day, and never seem to mind my initial five minutes of cranky. We trade off at naptime, when you frequently wake up with great dramatic flare, full of crank and fuss. You cheer up quick though, and are usually perky again when Dada comes home.

Oh Leilani. Soon you are going to be a big sister. Our lives will take on a new shape and flow to a different rhythm. I am eager to watch you step into your new role, and I know you are going to be phenomenal and such a help to your Mama. I am so very excited for your little brother to join us in our everyday, but my heart does feel a bit of bittersweet at this passing of a stage in life. Our life is about to get much more exciting! And I am so thankful that I get to jump right in, with you by my side.

You have changed me forever. When the Lord gave you to your Dada and I, I never could have imagined the journey my heart would take. You opened my heart to a totally new kind of love and a new kind of joy. It was a hard, hard newness, but one that my life was so meaningless and incomplete without. Your small, sweet self has melted my heart. My ability to love your brother, unmet, and to look at the work and sacrifice ahead with joy and actual pleasure, is all the result of lessons our Father taught me while I was holding you. I know how Life can only come after dying because of you. I know Jesus in a new way because of you. I know a deep-down, peace because of Who He showed Himself to be because of you in my life. I know love because of you. You are such an absolute treasure, Leilani. I am indescribably thankful for you.

I love you, my darling. I am so proud of you.


Your Mama

Monday, February 4, 2013

Word Prompt: Again

I am following a new (to me) blog written by the Lisa-Jo Baker over at the Gypsy Mama. And she has this great Friday tradition (I know, today is actually Monday) but this prompt from last week got me thinking so I decided to set a timer real quick and get typing. January 25th's word was Again. And here we go. 



I say something funny, and he laughs. Full, eyes crinkled up around the edges, deep and sincere. I feel a tingle of happy deep in my middle and I want to hear it again.

A sweet snuggly kiss. A calm sigh and a dark room. Her little voice says "Mama, I just love you." Warm fills my heart and I say it again, "I love you too."

Sunlight pours in, unexpected, through a bedroom or kitchen window. I walk past and feel the heat from it melt like butter on my chilled bare feet, a bird whistles, and the sudden cheer makes me pause. Then a cloud covers the sun again and it is cold again and I go to find a pair of socks. "Again!" I think up to the grey puffs that cover the sky.

A good conversation, a shared laugh or moment of real connection. My extrovert heart leaps and I feel that involuntary thrill of happiness. I KNOW you! You know me! And we are friends. Silly? Perhaps. But I want it again.

A kiss that passes too quickly. Busy swirls my minutes and I want him to come back, for the moment to slow down a little longer. "Kiss me again!" I think. But I am already in the car, headed off to get groceries.

"I Love You." I hear, clear as a bell. My Savior has managed to catch me by the hand, stand me still and remind me that He, unexplicably, deeply, loves me. I inhale in awe, the tears prick my eyes and I feel like I could glow. "Tell me again," I whisper. And He does.



Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Lie and The Truth

This past week, at Bible study, the Lord had something to say. He always has something to say, but I am not the best of listeners (I talk too much) and I frequently miss The Point. But on Wednesday, He made sure I got it.

In last week's episode, I talked about how the Lord had been working in my heart, and how excited and thankful I was over all the fresh air breezing through my dusty self. I have experienced a heart change (the first of many such operations, I hope) and while it is a new realization, I am already quite attached to it.

Worry and anxiety are no longer gnawing away like aggressive little termites at my heart and mind. *cue birds chirping, the hallelujah chorus and a tall cup of cold lemonade* But I really didn't have anything to do with eradicating it from my heart. He did it all, quietly, slowly, without my complete awareness, and suddenly it was gone. It was a gift given in Grace and I am thankful.

We sat down in our small group this past Wednesday and had some time to fellowship before we dug into the lesson. Several of us shared what the Lord had been up to in our lives, and I concluded my summary with a confession: "I am worried that my worry will come back." I think I feel that, because I had nothing to do with earning this change, I am powerless to make it a lasting one. I doubted that I could really experience something permanent in my heart, that I could really move on and grow past the debilitating habits of anxiety. So I was worried that my worry would come back. (I know. I know.)

Then the lecture part of the morning came, and we dug back into Genesis 20 and 21. Many tangents could now be branched off onto, but I shall try instead, to keep to my point. We have been studying the life of Abraham. Fascinating, and utterly relevant in many surprising ways. But somewhere in the middle of the lecture, our speaker asked

"When fear enters your life, what is your default response?"

I very quickly responded to myself "I respond in anxiety, I always want more control." Fragments of thoughts and scriptures and the wise insights of others had been floating around in my head inconclusively for several weeks. Leesa brought them all together when she addressed "The sins we tolerate" a few minutes later. Anxiety is a sin. It may be socially acceptable, but it is the result of sin festering in the heart. I think I knew this deep down, but hearing it articulated so clearly really caught my attention.

The Lord had worked in my heart and freed me from a burdening sin in my life. The significance of His mercy lept out in a new way. I had been carting around a deeply planted sin in my life, but had labeled it as merely a "problem." And He was not ok with that. So He gently dug it out, pulling it up by the roots. Anxiety was a sin issue in my heart, He had freed me from it, and yet I feared that it would come back, like a weed you just can't kill.

All of these thoughts ricocheted quickly around my brain, and then the Lord made His Point of the Day. Leesa said:

"It is a Lie that we can not walk in consistent victory over sin."

Bam. Fear was already wiggling back in, determined to stay in my heart, trying to sneak in innocently as "worry about worry." And it lied. And God smooshed it.

"For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been set free from sin... In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." Romans 6:6-7, 11-14

We can have victory over sin, because when He kills it, its dead, folks. By His mercy, through His blood, we are dead to sin. It has no power over us, we are free from it. But we must first recognize our sin as sin, without making excuses or calling it by another name, and we must bring it unflinchingly before the cross. We must confess it to the Lord as sin and accept The Truth: That by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are free. We are dead to sin, and Alive in Christ. It is time to leave it dead and buried, and to walk forward in faith. It is time to Live. 

Merciful Grace is reaching out to you right now. Right this very moment. You can be free. Not because you have the ability to muscle through it and kill it dead yourself, no. You can be free because your Creator is not content to let you keep living in your sins any longer, and HE has come to bring you Life. Look at your heart, bring it to the Lord. Confront your sin head on and let Him change you. Don't listen to the Lie that says you have fallen and you can't get up. You can because He can

And here, I conclude.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Oh. Hello 2013.

Well, well. I have a blog. What do you know about that folks?

It is 10:22 in the post meridiem. (Thats p.m. yall. Add that fancy knowledge to your brain.)

I am gonna write for 5 minutes. Without stopping. Without edits. And see what happens. If it turns out, I may possibly do this again every week, and thereby resurrect this here blog.

It is a new year. 2012 is over and gone, and I am enough into 2013 that I am remembering consistently that it is, in fact, not November anymore. Enough of the new year has progressed for me to even begin to process and ruminate to conclusion, many things about last year, that were worthy of note.

Most Significant Note:
I think this is the first year of my life that has left me looking back with a sense of positive, encouraging, spiritual growth. Is that weird? That is not to say that I have not acknowledged the moving forth of the Holy Spirit in my heart before, but this year, this month, I feel as if I can inhale with confidence and declare "The Lord did big things in my SOUL last year, and GOOD GRACIOUS I AM ENCOURAGED."

We began last year jobless, unsure of the future, full of questions, lacking in answers and A Plan. We had been watching the Lord steadily provide for our needs financially for several months, and were confident in His promise to continue to care for our family. The Plan was basically, "Wait. Do not fear. Wait. Stay where you are and await My further instruction." and had been unchanging for longer than we were comfortable with. By March, the plan was suddenly "Thou shalt uproot thyselves and traverse to the distant land of Memphis, and ground your small clan there." The end of May arrived, bringing with it, a moving van, an empty condo, tearful goodbyes, an 18 hour drive, and arrival into the 112 degree heat of a Memphian summer, already in full force. June brought transitions, new friends, long days, and suspicions of a growing baby Abel. July brought joyful confirmation of those suspicions, a sick and discouraged me, a husband in the thick of his residency year, even longer, hotter days, and somewhere in there, I started attending Bible Study Fellowship. Or was that in August? August, a less sick me, more hot weather, ... its all a sort of blur... October MTR life had settled a bit, I began to be desperate for Christmas break in Maryland, etcetera, etcetera, Thanksgiving happened in November, I began to realize it was no longer the summer, December arrived and we were headed to the state we called "Home." Two weeks back, immersed full speed in our old stomping ground for the first time since parting from it, surrounded by family, food and the familiar, two weeks waiting for my heart to start breaking over having to leave... And then suddenly we were back in Memphis and it was January 1, 2013.

And I was home. I wasn't comfortable, it wasn't familiar yet, but we had come Home to Memphis. I had returned to Maryland, confident that it was where I really wanted to be, and realized at the end of our visit (still so strange to think of "visiting" Maryland,) that our lives didn't fit there anymore. We slid back into our old niches quite cozily, but somehow, it didn't feel right. I felt a bit like a traitor when I realized this, and was frankly confused by it. I still am not completely comfortable and "at home" in Memphis, but we belong here. Memphis is home. I was given the opportunity to compare it to where I thought I wanted to be, and found unbeknownst to me, my heart had changed.

And January rolled along for a few days, and I returned to my habitual dwelling apprehensively on the upcoming spring/summer of Crazy, Unpredictable, and Intimidating, and suddenly realized, I wasn't afraid anymore. I had peace and confidence. Weird. So I looked even further ahead into the shadowy unknown of The Future Years, and realized, I was pretty darn content (for me) to not have The Plan. As a creature of Great Emotions and High Levels of The Stress and Anxious, I found, unbeknownst to me, that my heart had changed.

I thought "Well isn't this interesting. Well how do I feel about the rest of my life?"

I looked at my marriage, and discovered, "By golly, We are standing on new shores, and the sand is prettier here, and oh look, there is a seashell." Three years, going on four, smiled and said "Yep, we are moving along, by the grace of God." and I realized I was inhabited by an unfamiliar sense of content. As I have said before, I am a creature of Great Emotions and High Levels of The Stress and Anxious, and I am also deeply affected by the Discontent. To realize that I no longer felt smothered under these blights, as I was accustomed, was freeing, to say the least. I found, that unbeknownst to me, my heart had changed.

I felt the bouncing bumps and crashes of the little boy (MY SECOND CHILD, ohmyword) inside my belly and realized (but not for the first time) just how utterly in love with him I already was. My toddler ran by on some important mission, and my heart swelled with a joy that is starting to feel familiar. Motherhood is an often overwhelming, scary calling, and my job is only getting more complex, but the Lord has brought me to a place of fully embracing it. My little ones, and the complete investment of myself that they require, brings me joy. I have come through those dark early months of Adjustment To the "End" of MY Life (as I knew it) and stepped out into a fascinating, messy and intense world of child rearing, and I see New Life, and Joy in the midst of it. (Insert so very much more that I could say on this subject.) I found, that over the past two, almost three years, my heart had been changed. 

A flicker had been lit somewhere deep inside, and when I peered at it in curiosity, I found that it illuminated a new Face. A familiar, dear one, but a New one just the same. God looked different to me this year. Bigger. Stronger. More dashing and attractive (weird?) and much closer than I had realized. His face had changed as He quietly, insistently had revealed Himself over many months. I found, unbeknownst to me, that my heart had changed, as it had quietly been filled with Him.

He changed my heart last year. Somewhere in those months, He changed my heart. I have not arrived anywhere, but I feel as if I can say I have been somewhere. I see more clearly than ever before, the messy, wretched, selfish little person that I am, but with that deeper understanding, I see Him as more beautiful, more Good, more faithful and just More than ever before.

A word struck me in the midst of all this mental rumination. I was looking for one (It is apparently the trendy thing to do instead of New Year's resolutions.) but this one seemed to plop right into my lap and say "Hi, I am The Point of all those goings on last year. All those rumblings and Aha! moments and tears and Great Emotions were all about me." That word was SATISFIED. The Lord had graciously gotten my attention with lots of hard, uncomfortable, upsetting and unfamiliar and begun to show me that He is enough, and that my soul wearying discontentment needs to end. One can have enough, and still not be satisfied. I have always had enough in Him, and in Him alone, but I have never been Soul Satisfied. Again, I am not saying that I have arrived at a state of saint-like contentment and peace, but rather, I am walking down a path with a clearer destination. He is teaching me to be deeply, wholly completely Satisfied in Him.

Five minutes has come and gone. My husband has gone to bed without me, tomorrow is approaching and there is a child all up in the personal space of my bladder. Rude. It is time to conclude.

I am a sad, sinful human being who tends to do a two-steps-back-with-every-half-step-forward kind of dance, so I know all these heart changes face a tough battle to stay firmly established. But I am not going to be fighting it. HE will be.

For today tonight, I know my heart looks different than it did last January. Because of this, I can look at this New Year and not quaver with uncertainty. I am pretty wimpy and I have zero strength or ability on my own, but  my God is bigger than you, 2013. He can take whatever you dish out. And actually, He is in charge. So Bring It.