Saturday, August 29, 2009

Continuing Chaos

In case you're wondering why I'm not posting very often, please reference the above picture. While Cora has the face of an angel, as we all know looks can be deceiving. This is what I get whenever I feel as if I just may be getting a few minutes for myself, or to spend with Dana and Eliza. It's like she has a sixth sense or something. "What? Mommy's got a minute? I think I might just want to be snuggled!" Lucky for you this picture doesn't have audio, or you would be reaching for the nearest set of earplugs.
While the crying itself doesn't bother me too much, (have my other two kids left me so jaded that I can listen to screaming for hours on end without batting an eye?) it is the feeling that I am neglecting Dana and Eliza's needs while constantly catering to Cora's that has me against the ropes, about ready to surrender. My "Mom-guilt" is here in full effect, and as I am holding my crying newborn, looking into the eyes of her two older sisters who just want a few minutes of Mommy's time, it is hard for me to feel as if I am doing anybody any good at all.

Does anyone out there have any words of encouragement for a frazzled, slightly overwhelmed mother of three? Or any good things that I can do with Dana and Eliza while still maintaining my high-maintenance baby? I have found if left to their own devices my two oldest little girls have discovered the joy that comes with consistently and intentionally pushing each others buttons. Apparently this has a two-fold reward system. Not only do they succeed in making the other one cry, but it gets Mommy's attention for a couple minutes, even if the result is being parked on the naughty chair (again). I'm pretty sure the seat of all of Eliza's pants are nearly worn through from the amount of time she spends sitting on her stool. I half expect to find her drawing lines on the wall next to her, marking down the number of minutes/hours/days she has endured on her little wooden prison.

What's a well-intentioned, yet limited by two arms and one fussy baby Mom to do? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated (by both me and Eliza's bottom...).

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day struggling with balancing it all. I know this time in my life is finite, and that this season will end, but right now I feel as if I'm drowning in it. I don't want to wish these days away. I don't want them to pass me by without me even taking note of them. I don't want to merely survive them... I want to enjoy them. I want to be present for them. I want to make the most of them.

I know that with your help I can still nurture these beautiful girls and mold them into the young women you intend for them to be, but right now I have no idea how to do it, and whatever I try seems to fail. I am tired of feeling as if I spend the day nagging them, or disciplining them, or just trying to find a way to occupy them so they aren't nagging me. I can't imagine that this is the picture of a godly mother who You would want to raise Your children. Help me, Lord, learn to balance my time so that every one of my children still gets the best of me. Help me to still reflect Your love to them, Your patience, Your kindness, and Your goodness. When I fall short, Lord, and when I have said the same words to them over and over again, please open their hearts to still hear them. Speak to their spirits when I cannot. Stir their souls, giving them the desire to be kind to each other, and to love each other with their words and deeds.
And most of all, Lord, protect their small hearts from feeling as if their Momma doesn't have time for them. Let every positive word I have for them speak volumes more than I could ever say. Let the good things I do for them show them just how much I love and adore them, even if my time is not only their own anymore. And though I normally ask that I may be Your hands and feet to them, I ask that You be my hands and feet to them, too.

Thank You, Lord, for loving them so much that I know I can ask these things of You with complete confidence that You will listen, and respond. I already feel better knowing that they are resting and flourishing in Your tender care.

In Your Name I pray,

Saturday, August 22, 2009

One More Day

Dear Friends,
I'm writing to ask you for your prayers for me and my family tomorrow, as it would have been my Dad's 66th birthday.

I'm starting to get used to the anxiety and trepidation that precedes any big day that would have normally included him. By "getting used to", I mean I have become an expert at avoiding thinking about it and dealing with it until either the night before, or the day of, and then being hit with it like a ton of bricks.

Tomorrow's going to be a bad one. It's so hard knowing in advance the sorrow you're going to have to go through. Knowing how much you're going to hurt. Knowing how hard you're going to cry. Knowing there's no escaping the pain, no tucking it away for another time.

Tomorrow I will have to face it. I will grieve. I will weep. I will suffer. There's just no other way.

I can feel the tightness in my chest already, the burning in my nose that always comes right before a big tearshed. The thought of going to church in the morning fills me with foreboding, as that is the place where his absence can always be felt.

Tomorrow should be a good day. I should be able to walk into church and give my Dad a huge, huge hug, holding on tighter and longer than normal as I wish him a very happy birthday. We should be able to joke around about old he's getting, how young he looks, and how he can still outrun, outbike, out-anything me even though he's 34 years older than me. We should all be getting together as a family to celebrate his birth, and celebrate his life. He should be opening up a present from us, one that would be useful to him either on the golf course, or on the Appalachian Trail, or on the bike path. I should be able to watch his smile light up his eyes, as it was always the small things that made him the happiest, and just being among family would have counted as one of those things. There should be tons of grandkids running past him, crawling all over him, and laying kisses on him, one by one offering him their own versions of "Happy Birthday". We should all be with him, wishing him many, many, many more.

Instead, tomorrow I will be getting together with my Mom and my sisters for lunch and carrot cake (his favorite) for dessert. I will be listening to Hymns By Request, his Sunday afternoon radio ritual, waiting for a song to be played over the airways dedicated to him by my heartbroken mother. I will be going to Kollen's Park, a place that him and my Mom used to frequent on nice Sunday afternoons, and I will picture him there soaking up the sunshine, engrossed in his latest read, holding hands with his wife. I will be going home, longing to see him for just a moment on this day that has belonged to him since before I was born. And I will cry more tears, realizing that his day is now just one more day we have to survive without him.

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day already feeling the sadness that tomorrow will hold. I simply ask today, Lord, that you be near to all of us. Be near to my mother when she wakes up alone, be near to us kids as we remember the years of his birthdays past, be near to us in those minutes when all we can do is mourn him, and miss him, and make the most of the memories we have left of him.

Give us laughter tomorrow, Lord. Amidst the pain, give us reasons to smile as we remember him. Bring to our minds stories we may have forgotten, which will bring us untold joy when we think of them once more. Let us have him back in this way that allows us to feel close to him again. Grant us images of him healthy, and happy, and here with us. Fill our time together with the warmth and happiness we felt when he walked among us.

Be near to us, Lord. And bring him near to us with You.

In Your Name I pray,

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Creator Confusion

Today I'm having a hard time comprehending two of the drastically different sides of this God I serve. I am completely divided and torn in half by my God of life, and my God who rules over death.

Life and Death. Two opposing states which have made themselves well known to me in these last few months, and which are governed over by the same God who created them both at the very beginning of time.

One evokes joy in me, the other deep despair. One fills me with love, the other with pain. One prompts me to praise, the other leaves me swirling in doubt.

At church Sunday morning we sang the song, "Mighty To Save", which I'm sure is familiar to some of you. This song invariably brings me back to the days when my father was alive and we would be singing this song together, filled with hope for his future, and confident in our Lord who we knew was mighty to save him. Tears would stream down our cheeks as we stood there, recognizing the power of our risen Savior in the life of my Dad, sure that He would intervene and heal him of the cancer and pain that had wracked his body.

But God chose not to save my father from his earthly struggles. Our God is mighty to save, but He opted not to. His plan for His people involved taking my Dad from this world and bringing him Home.

And today that makes me mad.

Do I still implicitly trust that His plan is perfect? Yes.

Do I know, deep down, that He has a reason for allowing my Dad to die? I do.

But right now I am still so, so angry with Him for taking my father away from me, and my children, and the rest of my family.

I couldn't sing the words to that song Sunday morning, as the angst that lives inside of me just got too big to stifle. I couldn't utter even a note. I was mad at Him for not letting me understand, for keeping His reasons from me, for allowing me to go through this pain with no explanation as to why He chose to not save my father.

And then, in the middle of trying to hold back my tears of frustration and bitterness, I looked down, and saw the sleeping babe in my arms. Absolute perfection in newborn form. Peace in a pink blanket. His love revealed to me all wrapped up in the tiny figure of this little one.

And my anger instantly dissipated into awe, and gratefulness, and humbleness in the presence of His majesty.

My God created Life! And I was holding this life in my arms. Again, the moment was much bigger than me as I tried to wrap my head around the conflicting emotions I had just experienced in those few short seconds.

And then I was brought back to a memory I had of my father and me, just the two of us, sitting at my dining room table. It was before he had been diagnosed with cancer, and he had stopped by my house on his way home from work to check on me, as I had just received some potentially scary news at the doctor's office myself. (Which turned out to be nothing serious.) We were rehashing the finer points of the well-known and oft-discussed argument, "Why do bad things happen to good people?". And at the end of our talk he summed it up best by quoting Scripture, as he so often did. He referenced Isaiah 55:9, which states, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts".

And I guess I'm going to just have to let that sum it up for me today. I will never understand Him. I will never get why He does the things He does, or doesn't do the things I want Him to do.

But He understands me.

He understands me when one minute I am so angry Him I can't even see straight, and the next I am so overcome with love for Him my heart feels as if it will burst.

He knows what I'm going through when I shake my fists at Him, and when I raise those same hands in praise.

He doesn't judge me when I can't pray to Him because of the darkness that has taken over my heart, and when in the next instant I fall on my knees in supplication before Him, so overwhelmed by His goodness.

So today I will just accept that He is bigger than me. I will try to reconcile that I cannot know Him the way I want to, and the way (in my human mind) I feel I need to and deserve to. And I will just try to be thankful that He lets me know Him at all.

Dear Lord in heaven,

I pray this day with so many mixed emotions towards You. This comes as no surprise, as You are the first one to witness my resentment and my doubt, while also experiencing my love and my gratefulness to You. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with all the different reactions I have to You that I choose to not react at all anymore, and I ask Your forgiveness for that as well. Let me never get so blinded by the greatness of You that I lose complete sight of You.

Today I ask that no matter how angry I am at You, no matter how badly I want to throw in the towel of our relationship, no matter how many times I curse the fact that I cannot know Your reasons why, and no matter how betrayed I sometimes feel, that in the end I always find a reason to praise You. A reason to love You. A reason to keep coming back to You.

You are a God of many things. The God of Life, the God of Death, the God of my father, and the God of me.

Keep me centered in You, oh God. You are bigger than my anger. You understand my bitterness. You can handle my fears. You welcome my doubt. All of these things just give You the opportunity to show how great You truly are... by taking them in, and releasing me from them.

I love You because...
I love You still...
I will love You always.

In Your Name I pray,

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Kiss From Papa

So it turns out that Cora and her Papa will be indelibly linked in this lifetime, even though they never had the chance to meet face to face.

Moments after Cora was born, Jason and I were poring over every inch of her, staring in amazement at this wonder of God that had been placed into our arms, and just drinking in the sheer perfection of her. We both noticed that on the pinkie of her right hand she has a decent size "mark" that wraps around her knuckle. (See picture above)

None of the doctors that we asked about it have been able to come up with a definitive answer as to what it may be. We've heard everything from a sucking blister, to some sort of vascular spot, to runaway iodine, but none of them are sure exactly what they are looking at, and the mark is showing no signs of diminishing or disappearing.

When my Mom saw Cora she took one look at it and said, as matter of fact as if she were the medical expert, that it was "Papa's claim on her", and that "this shows she belongs to Papa".

I think I've mentioned in other posts the fascination that my Dad had with his grandchildren's hands. He loved those hands. We have picture upon picture of him staring at them in awe, holding them delicately in his own, marveling at the smallness and fragility of them compared to the strength and size of his own. It is one of the images I have of him that remains so strong in my mind... him rubbing them, kissing them, holding them...

Right now I'm thinking back to one of the last Sundays we were all in church together. Eliza was making her way past me to her Nana, which meant she had to cross in front of my Dad. It was the middle of the sermon, but the moment she placed her hand on his leg to pass him he instantly and instinctively covered it with his own, stroked her little fingers, grabbed ahold of her tiny palm and escorted her on by with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips. Man, he loved those hands.

And so it makes sense that Cora would have a mark on her own hands that cannot be explained away. I had prayed and prayed for God to give me a glimpse of my father in the hospital room that day, asked for knowledge that my father was there, pleaded for the assurance that he could see the both of us, that he would be able to see his newest grandchild. God answered my prayer tenfold by letting him place a kiss on her finger, before we even met her, where I can so easily envision him kissing her for real.

My sister Cyndy said it best when she looked at Cora's birthmark and said, "From Papa's arms to ours".

It's much harder than I thought it would be, having her here without him. Everyday I imagine what it would look like to see him holding her in his arms, wrapping up her little hand in his own, smiling down into her perfect angel face. I grieve deeply in my heart of hearts the love lost that she will never know from him. But I know that God answers prayers. He sees my tears. He loves me, He loves little Cora, and He made sure that we both have a visual reminder that her Papa is part of her, and always will be.

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day overwhelmed by your love for me. You knew how hard Cora's birth in the wake of my father's death was going to be, and you tended to me. What a beautiful way to show that You are always here, always listening, always looking for ways to show Your unending compassion and undying love for us.
Thank You, Lord, for once again not only being right where I needed You to be, but in such a creative way that it leaves no other explanation than that it was only You. Thank You for a tangible display of Your goodness in the midst of sorrow, Your presence in the face of pain.
You are Almighty, Lord, and every time I gaze down at the miracle that is Cora, and look upon the mark on her hand placed with loving care by You, I will not only be reminded of my beloved father and the tenderness in which he showed to his grandchildren, but also Your desire to be in our lives, to show us that You listen and that You care, and that if we are faithful to You, You will be faithful in return.
Thank You for giving me a way to link my father and my daughter together forever. Thank You for giving me a jumping off point to use when I tell Cora about her Papa, his love for You, and Your love for us. I really needed that, and You came through. Just like always.
I love You, Lord.
In Your Name I pray,