Friday, May 24, 2013

The Last King of Narnia

"Neil? What about naming our boy, 'Tirian' after the last king of Narnia... it means, 'kind and gentle'... i like that..."
Neil without looking up, "i hate it."
My mother in law has taken to calling him Neilson.
My father in law calls him Finn... as in finished. As in last baby...
Charter had a dream that his name was Watchman and when he looked at him, it was written across his forehead... (i think that dream was prophetic and i'm tucking it away in my heart - but i don't know that Watchman is the name that this little one will carry on his birth certificate)...
Neil suggested, Fore - in honour of golf, i liked Truman...
And names are added intermittently to the little list i've kept - but none are chosen.
Soon enough his name will be all finalized and made legal. Soon enough this time of expectancy will end and we will know so many things that are uncertain right now... What's his birth date? How big is he? Will he wait for his daddy to get home from his trips before his arrival? How will labour begin?

What's the name of this tiny king i carry?

But for now - so many of these musings can remain just that - musings - as we watch and wait out these last few weeks...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

vulnerability in the last month

i'm nearing the end of this pregnancy...
Even if i go late (which i'm anticipating), still... each pregnancy has a beginning and and end, and i know that the end will come.
i've been feeling incredibly healthy and strong (still - at 37 weeks). But some days - it creeps up on me... vulnerability.
It's a certain heaviness... or a feeling almost like i can't breathe... or a fleeting panic at an inability to perform a simple task that was so easy a few months ago... And i feel tears come so easily - not from sadness or frustration - but just from the beauty and aching fragility of the expectant state... i have to explain to Neil... "i'm ok. i just want you."
And i do...
There is warmth and peace that radiates off his back when i press myself too close and he finally has to shrug me away saying, "someone is being too kicky..."
We roll over away from him, giving him some much needed space. My son and i. i'm heavily turning my enormous body away as he twists and turns in his baby home within me... and i feel that subtle communion that happens between mother and child in utero.  It's a strange sightless connection between us. i imagine him all curled up - and i wonder if he imagines me at all... Gently i lay my hand on an outstretched limb that is making a strange lump on my abdomen... He's there.
My hands are thick and veiny from the extra blood flow in my body that sustains and nurtures his little body as it grows. My movements lack their usual quickness, my thoughts are plodding and sluggish...
A friend who is a mother of six phoned. We hadn't talked in a couple of years and as we caught up on my most recent pregnancy, she asked me, "So how do you feel about your big family?"
And i responded, "i'm doing the very best that i can..."
i am satisfied with that answer.
And i welcome the vulnerability that i've found myself in as i prepare myself for what's to come...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

road trip

It was an impromptu road trip.
Neil and i were chatting over coffee in the morning that my mom would be flying to edmonton that afternoon for the funeral of a long-time friend and staying at my sister's house for a few days.
"Why don't you go pick her up at the airport and have a little visit too?" he suggested.
His suggestion made me uncomfortable. i get anxiety driving and i worried that i would barge in - when there is so much to be careful about in my family these days - and i'd make a mess where i long for peace...
But he pushed...
And so i texted my mom and my sister who both excitedly encouraged me to come... and by the time my little chickies rose from their beds, the trip was planned and Mollen was the thrilled child who got the golden ticket to come with mama for a 24 hour trip away. We finished our morning school and packed our bags - i anxiously went out to Neil's office for a kiss goodbye and he gruffly laughed at my obvious nervousness for a trip that he sees as a simple outing.
Then we were off.
Molls got to dj our trip and she started us off with the Les Mis sound track - and then she read Stories From Grandma's Attic out loud to me as i drove. We chatted and she made a comfy nest with her pillow and creature comforts as i watched the road and the beauty of the pastoral landscape around us. Her sweet chirrupy company was the most fragrant gift.
We were almost in Red Deer when we got the text from my mom that her flight was delayed so we took a little detour to Michael's craft store and found a frame that was on sale for a painting i had been intending to hang.

(Isn't it lovely? My brother in law bought copies for his wife and each of his sister in laws... if you look carefully, you can see the babe in the womb...)
And y'know... it wasn't a dangerous trip - it was a little blessing. A sweetness to laugh with my mom and my sister and watch Mollen get folded right into my sister's gaggle of girlies.
On the way home, at a turn in the road that brought back some tough memories from a previous trip, i put on my sunglasses and cried. My auntie had sent me a burned CD of the tape my family had made when i was in grade 3. i recognized every harmony, every pluck of guitar string... i remembered eating oreos in the recording studio and being moved by the song my mama wrote...

And their voices twined like fruitful vines - singing, "Although i cannot see your face today, i'll trust you Lord, and though i may not feel your strong support i'll lean on you for i have found the only source of peace is trusting you..."
And so very many, many years have passed since they sang those songs onto that recording... and as i listened to our voices decades later with my own little third grader sitting in the seat beside me...
i realized that even though so many, many things change - the thing that won't - is still my Source of peace.

Oh, Papa - Your peace is here. It's not anything i deserve, or i've earned... it's just somewhere you've brought me these days.
And i'm so very grateful.

Monday, May 13, 2013

On Death

i went to a funeral last Monday.
The sun was shining on one of the first truly summery days of the year... and i thought as i walked into the church, that this is the kind of day i would want for my funeral - where my friends and family would feel the sun on their faces as they said goodbye - and talked about the One who took me home.
And then later on, i was reading to my little ones from, "Anne of the Island", and there were a few separate passages on death that resonated with me - especially as a mama trying to teach my little ones to lift their chins... just a little... so their eyes are focused on the eternal rather than the temporal.

i think i'll record them here.

"It was sad, tragic - and true! Heaven could not be what Ruby had been used to. There had been nothing in her gay, frivolous life, her shallow ideals and aspirations, to fit her for that great change, or make the life to come seem to her anything but alien and unreal and undesirable."

"Anne sat in a pain that was almost intolerable. She could not tell comforting falsehoods; and all that Ruby said was so horribly true. She was leaving everything she cared for. She had laid up her treasures on earth only; she had lived solely for the little things of life - the things that pass - forgetting the great things that go onward into eternity, bridging the gulf between the two lives and making of death a mere passing from one dwelling to the other - from twilight to unclouded day. God would take care of her there - Anne believed - she would learn - but now it was no wonder her soul clung, in blind helplessness, to the only things she knew and loved."

"It must not go with her as with poor butterfly Ruby. When she came to the end of one life it must not be to face the next with the shrinking terror of something wholly different - something for which accustomed thought and ideal and aspiration had unfitted her. The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be sought and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth."

(And then, after Ruby dies...)
"and on her face was a smile - as if after all, death had come as a kindly friend to lead her over the threshold, instead of the grisly phantom she had dreaded."

And sometimes i think about death... About the real homecoming that it will be...

At the funeral, the son giving the eulogy said that the doctor had been unable to answer his dad's questions about that transition - from life to death - to eternity... What it would feel like - ?

But then a friend came to visit, and his friend had remarked, "You know, i think it's kind of like when you were a boy - and you went for a long car ride and you fell asleep in the car - and woke up in your bed. You don't really remember those moments, how you got unbuckled, out of the car, into the house and into bed - but it was your Father - who picked you up, carried you and tenderly laid you in your bed to sleep... i think that's what it's like..."

And i guess that's sort of what i've been thinking too... But then, the comfort is all in the relationship, isn't it? The familiarity of a Father - plucking a child from their seat and carrying them to their home - is so different from imagining that transition with One with whom we've never built any sort of relationship - to a place that lacks any sort of familiarity at all, isn't it?

Neil & i keep having these conversations - about God, and the Christian life... And every time we do, these conversations keep coming back to relationship... It seems to me to be what He has always been after...

And i guess the thought of death helps me see why....

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Surprise Baby Shower

i've been feeling really good. It's like a lot of the shadows and sadness of the past year and a half are finally fading in earnest; and i can see the outline of the sun breaking through the clouds - and feel it's warmth.
Neil says it's because i have a baby growing in my tummy - and that tends to make me happy and grateful.
Maybe he's right.
But lately, it just seems like God refuses to allow me to wallow in my habitual rut of, "unloved"... Rejected? Maybe at times and in moments and in seasons... But not unloved. Never unloved.
So, this past Sunday, Cairo announced that Neil (who would be in Montreal) - was sending me and my oldest two daughters for pedicures for an anniversary gift. i thought it was a little strange - i've only had three pedicures in my life - but i was sure that it would feel good on my poor swollen feet. We packed up to leave the house and were supposedly dropping Peyton off at a friend's on our way. We waited for Pey to get to the door but as soon as she was through it, she burst back out and waved for me to come in.
"Oh, Barbie must want to talk to you. i'll wait..." Cai mumbled, looking at her phone...
i walked to the door and as it swung open, i saw that her house was full of people - my people - shouting, "surprise!"
i was totally overwhelmed... i thought i could feel just the biggest loudest sob coming up in my throat - so i backed up and blinked back the tears... There were flowers, and sweet butterfly paper bunting - a cake made out of fruit, all kinds of treats and prettiness crafted out of the orange and blue that i've been secretly stashing for this little one... They knew this was baby 8... my fourth son, third boy in a row... they knew there was no call for a baby shower at this stage in the game...
But a party was thrown anyway - and what a party it was...

This little baby... *this one*... was celebrated. He was given fresh clothes - sleepers with no holes in the toes - onesies that aren't discoloured around the neck and legs, he got his very own pair of padraig slippers, and the luxury of a thermometer disguised as a soother. He got a couple of toys that have never been slobbered on and the softest receiving blankets - all in fresh, lovely, clean colours that smelled of newness - not boxes. A friend gave me a gift certificate for whatever odds and ends i might need from a cloth diaper store (and i just realized i need an amber necklace and a couple snappy's), another friend gave me a gift certificate for an hour long photography session. i got soothing butters for my swollen feet, and bath bombs and salts for this body that has taken this journey a few times before...

They were *thoughtful* gifts... pretty things... my mother in law said i was, "over blessed" - and i think she's right...
The shock of it all was the strangest part - this wasn't something i would have ever expected in a million years - and yet this tender celebration spoke volumes to my mama heart (and my weak little human heart too) - it affirmed the value of his precious life (as well as my own), and was a sweet recognition that each one - number one... or number eight... is a gift from the Father of Lights - who just knows how to give good gifts.
And... for the rest of the day, the tears kept trying to come, all hot and unexpected and unwelcome.... my emotions teamed up with my hormones and my husband's absence and my expectant plodding slowness... and i knew i was no match for all of them combined.
i texted my discipler - who had to miss because she was away - and told her about it...

"It was very surprising... But also just... I don't know... Makes me cry... Soooooooo undeserved - humbling... Like grace."

"People want to bless you, crazy as it sounds to YOU..."

"i thought i was going to start howling. That would have been embarrassing... But i managed not to start... It made my kids excited for the baby too... and showed them that he is precious too... Even if he's baby eight and third boy in a row. A soft life affirming message that is not lost on me."

"God is using people to bless you and your family, it is humbling. And it would have been embarrassing and funny at the same time if you would have lost it. I would have handed you a kleenex and rolled my eyes."

"Haha. i still might. Tonight. After the kids are in bed."

"Ha! On your own terms!"

"Yup. :)"

And maybe that's exactly what i did.

Monday, May 6, 2013

mark 12:41-44?

i gave a copy of my book to my midwife.
i felt like a bit of a nerd - but i wanted her to have a copy. If she read it, she could see how the very small shift from traditional medicine to midwifery had impacted me as an expectant mama... And too - my book was my attempt to testify to the goodness of God... and for that reason too, i thought it couldn't hurt to share it with her.
It made me open my book and read bits and pieces again. Pieces i hadn't read in months and months - a year? More? And i could see all the flaws - the bits that i could have changed or made better or worded more carefully or expanded or deleted or... or...
Blushing,  i forced myself to put it away.
My book was a small, measured effort. Small, i guess, only in the grande scheme of things because i did pour into it a great deal of effort and love and tears and thought - everything i had in me to make it the best that it could be with the limited resources that i had to pour into it - in a very limited time. My goal was completion. {Cai admitted to me a few weeks ago that the time i spent immersed in writing it wasn't really all that much fun for her - so i'm glad that i chose to measure that time out, and not write a cheque that my poor family couldn't cash for me}.
One of the things i'm learning to admire about a current discipler in my life - is her ability to look calmly about herself, see the work - hear the calling of the Shepherd, and then follow through, pick it up and press on. i've noticed time and again, how similar she is to my husband - not prone to over thinking, to agonizing, to worry and perfectionism.
And so i guess i'm learning from her example a bit - and allowing my little book to just be. And i think in the same way, i'm learning... to just let myself be too.
i'll make my offering - holding my very self out to my Saviour as a most humbling gift...

Oh, Papa...
i'm not good enough...
i should be edited, fixed, polished and perfected.
How can you possibly use me in my present state - i don't have the resources to even polish the meagre mites that i bring...
But i hear your gentle voice - recognizing that i give out of poverty - maybe not monetary... but the kind of poverty that lacks the gloss and shine when i come and offer myself as living sacrifice.

It reminds me of Christina Rossetti's poem that Cai memorized as a tiny wee girl - and i can still hear her crisp voice quoting it as she stood rigid and serious...

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.


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