The Art of Good-Bye

At Christmas, Anna gave a special gift.  It was wrapped in the manner of a fresh ten-year-old:  lots of tape and a hand-tied bow.  In the paper was her first watercolor painting.  It was for Emma.  “To put in your college room,” Anna directed.

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Perhaps it was prophetic–this seascape painting–since we are now at the threshold of sending Emma to her oceanside university.

I could say something pithy here.  “How fast the time has flown,” or “It seems like yesterday when she was little.”  And isn’t that how it is?  The years so quickly changed her infant form into the beautiful young woman she has become.

I feel the gathering tightness in my throat as I put the deposit check in the envelope, but then the Word comes alive:  “When my spirit faints within me, You know my way!”    I say it over and over again:  My God is a God Who knows.

He knows my path.  He knows Emma’s path.  And I know He will hold my heart for the hard good-bye, as I send my daughter smiling into her future.

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Motherhood Unexpected

Here’s something new! A friend of mine has published a book!

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I remember the first time I met and chatted with Deanna. We were working in the church nursery together and she was just.plain.tired. She was nearing the end of her third pregnancy and I remember how she sat on the couch and directed the room full of toddlers, two of whom she owned. Carter was all-boy—a bundle of action and movement. And Addison was pure sweetness, ambling around the room in her DAFO* braces. I remembered these braces with a bittersweet sort of hindsight–they were a familiar “wardrobe accessory” in our house for several years.

Addison was learning to sign. She would climb up on my lap and make the sign for “music.” I can’t remember how many iterations of “Jesus Loves Me” I sang that day, but I’m sure I was hoarse by the end of my nursery stint.

And this—true story—though I noticed Addison’s DAFOs and the glasses correcting her vision, I did not see the familiar “outward” signs that people recognize associated with Down’s Syndrome. I met an engaging little girl who clearly loved: 1) her parents, 2) keeping up with her brother, and 3) my singing (thankfully, she was not a harsh critic).

Fast forward a few years and I’ve learned much more about Deanna. She is a talented musician, she has overcome more than a couple of hardships with decided grace and courage, and she opens her heart and shares her words on a lovely blog (Everything and Nothing from Essex @ www.deannajsmith.com).

And now she has written a novel.  Though not autobiographical, Deanna draws on her experience to wrestle with questions surrounding infertility, the loss of a child, and the privilege of embracing a child with special needs.  Deanna explores these issues with candor and dignity.   She allows her protagonist to ask honest questions, and in the end points her readers toward the goodness of God in all circumstances.

Deanna is offering it at a significant discount through Amazon.  I invite you to treat yourself to this lovely novel. I promise you will be blessed and encouraged!

*DAFOs are orthotic braces.  You can learn about them here:  http://cascadedafo.com/about

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Estonia

I stood in the rain this morning, wrapped in my polka dotted raincoat, waving and blowing kisses. They are off, headlong into the setting sun. How many waves of the sea are between us now. Yet, this is how it must be. I feel my fingers releasing, one by one: these gifts given are not mine to keep.

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As I am checking the flight tracker, Sam comes in, telling me that he’d like a quiver and some arrows to round out what he’s planned for his Spring Break. “Ahh, Samuel,” I am waxing eloquent with the poet’s words, “Tell me how children are like arrows.”

He muses on this a bit, then declares it must be because children are sent out, just like arrows, to be “Leaders for Righteousness” in the world. I smile, determined to pray for the path of the arrows and not to dwell on the dwindling quiver.

I find a new focus for my prayer life. Estonia. Baltic Europe. A little red star on the southern tip of the Gulf of Finland marks Tallinn, the capital city. This is where my children are going. It is one of the least religious areas of Europe. These people are not hostile, just indifferent. But might the Lord have some in this city? In Tartu?

And perhaps you would join me in praying for a motley group of flannel clad Vermonters, longing to bring hope to a broken world.

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Always A Mama

I am sitting in the waiting room. Daughter #1 is in the small, sterile “operating” room. Within an hour, her third molars will be wrested from her jaws (I’m making it sound perfectly horrific!).

She signed her own forms, adult that she is. I can start to feel that I am simply the financial guarantor and designated driver in today’s experience.

This girl turned woman, she is ready. Yesterday, she submitted her own prescription at the pharmacy. And she is poised for today, following all the instructions, willingly acquiescing to the “no food” directive.

Of course I remember the days when she demanded juice within a few moments of waking. The requisite sugar high. And the days when she was immature and unreasonable—or perhaps, better said, the days when she acted like the child she was. And sometimes on those long, long days, it seemed that she’d never grow up.

But now I wonder how I got here already. I am the mother of older children. Adults. Life has shifted. Those days when they were all little and all at home are gone. Now this stay-at-home-mom is rarely at home. In fact, my 10-year-old recently depicted each member of our family with a defining icon. I am holding car keys, which look a bit more like small hand saws.  At least I am smiling!!

Yes, I am the driver.  In the last week, I have driven to piano lessons, the grocery store, ice skating, church activities, the grocery store, dance classes, dance competitions, doctor’s appointments, the grocery store again (and we’re still out of milk!). I wonder why I often feel so scattered, why I can barely string a logical thought together. Sometimes it feels like life is fractured and disjointed and defined by the next outing.

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So here I sit, caught between the worlds of childhood and adulthood, neither of which is well defined. It is a new place, a new way of parenting which is not quite as intuitive to me  as mothering little ones.  But I am still “Mom.” I am the one who will hold my daughter when she wakes up, and help her up the stairs and try to make the pain go away. I am the one who knows her heart. Yes, I am still mom, and she’ll always be my girl.

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Watercolor . . .

I have always been impressed by my friends who could create art–people like Amy.  I have also thought that “creating art” was an esoteric gift for those privileged few who had a certain instinct.

Then a few months ago, my nine-(now ten!)-year-old daughter announced that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up.  A simple, and perhaps typical, childhood dream, but we learned about a local offering of a watercolor class.  I agreed to be a chaperone to some young painters.  After a few sessions, the teacher, noticing my interest, suggested that I join the class as well.

I started looking forward to class with an odd sense of anticipation.  “What would Judie have for us to do today?” I’d wonder.  And each week, a new little piece of wonder would unfold as I sat with my palette and paper.

So here it is, dear readers:  proof that with a little instruction, anyone can learn something new.  :-)

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“Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Psalm 90:2

Posted in Grace Gifts | 5 Comments

A Marriage Equinox

A few months ago, one of my engineer friends introduced me to the idea of  a “marriage equinox.”  It’s when you have been married longer than you have been single.  A few clicks on a date calculator, and I learned that my husband was unmarried for 8,377 days.  As of today, he has been married for 8,377 days.  He found this worthy of celebration and brought home half a dozen beautiful roses, reminiscent of the ones from our wedding day.

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In those 8,377 days, my husband has learned how to be a husband.  Sure, he read all the required books before we walked down the aisle, but the “boots on the ground” learning must be done by doing . . . by shoveling snow and warming the car, by making dinner when a pregnant wife lies sleeping on the couch, by meeting downtown during lunch break . . . by a million little things that all add up to one big, glorious thing called marriage.

On a drizzly January afternoon when we held hands and pledged it all, we were all hopes and dreams.  Since then we have navigated the maze of job changes, address changes, six kids, a challenging diagnosis, joy and heartache, pain and pleasure.  We are nearly twenty three years in–not long enough to be experts, but long enough to know that there is a mystery here.  It is a mystery of wonder and mercy.  It is a little, shadowy picture of Christ and His Church, lived out in the northwest corner of Vermont.  It is an equinox of grace.

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Summer’s End

It came to my e-mail inbox–the high school notification of freshman orientation.  You would think I would be used to this, having already sent three children to the high school.  But I got a lump in my throat and quickly closed the e-mail.  I just don’t feel ready.

But whether I’m ready or not, she must go. And just like the others, she is ready to go.  I guess I am just wanting to savor the childhood of my children, and high school feels so.grown.up!

Summer 2014 395Let this be a lesson to me to savor each day of her high school years–I know there will be happy ones and hard ones.  There will be the requisite ups and downs that mark the passage to independence.  But as she gazes on her Savior, I know she’ll do just fine.

Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”  Psalm 34:5

 

 

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The Empty Screen

Here I sit at an empty screen.  It has been a while since I’ve posted.  In that space of time, I’ve been at once busy and quiet, full and empty.  At times I have felt as if I have nothing to say.  At others, I have so much on my mind that I can’t begin to organize my thoughts.

I have wondered why I keep this record . . . why anyone might want to read what I write.  And what is the point of adding my voice to the many other voices competing for our time and attention?  I have considered the “information overload” and the “opinion overload” that clutter the internet.  And honestly, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by it all.

Then I came across this little quote, and it got me thinking.  I found it in a devotional book which I recently purchased from an antique store, and it appeared on the entry date for my birthday.  Perhaps there is something of value here:

“Give what you have; to someone it may be better than you dare to think.”  —Longfellow

So here is my humble offering.  I will give what I have–random musings on the ways my faith intersects my very ordinary life.

And I offer an invitation.  Come rejoice with me!  There is so much to celebrate!  The simple joys of home and family, the quiet hours in the Word, the beauty of New England–I want to share it!   Mine is not a perfect life, but it is a redeemed one, filled with eternal favor.  It is marked by joy that is deeper than sorrow and peace that is greater than pain.  Mostly, it is simply a testimony to how good God is and how undeserving I am.  Thank you for sharing my joy with me!

Here are just a few pictures that capture the essence of our summer:

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Yes!

She had a headache.  She looked at me with that desperate gaze.  I know what this feels like–when the world is spinning and your head is throbbing and you can’t even string a logical thought together.

I brought her to the couch–my littlest one–and we lay down and she fell asleep with her head on my chest.  I fell asleep too, my eyes heavy with the weight of the day.

It was good to have her close to me.  Close and safe and filled up with love.  Was this the last time I would hold her like this, feeling her warm head nestled under mine, hearing the sweetness of her sleeping breath?

And can I tell you how many times I’ve said “No” to her? . . . “No, I can’t snuggle tonight because . . . ya-da, ya-da, ya-da.”  But this time I gave a delicious “Yes.”

I was late to my meeting that evening, but I wasn’t in a hurry.  Instead I took joy in the goodness of saying “yes” to an irretrievable moment . . . one I’ll never have back, yet will hold forever in the hollow of my heart.

 

Posted in Daughters, Family | 4 Comments

Tokens

Just this from Spurgeon today:

“The fair earth is full of tokens of God’s presence.”

DSC_0465_edited-1And this from the Word:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:10-13 DSC_0466_edited-2

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