Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Thanksgiving Post

Christmas began last Friday, the day before my son's memorial service. We were so occupied during the weekend that its arrival didn't really register until we were driving home from the graveside service on Monday. It was then that I noticed Christmas music on the radio, decorations on buildings, and later on, the inevitable rush of "super deals!!" into my inbox. I read, as from a distance, the status updates of friends who described decorating the tree and standing in long lines at midnight to score great bargains. It didn't make me sad or angry, but I had just a flash of the odd sensation of being a premature baby, hypersensitive to the overstimulation of an environment that I wasn't ready for just yet. It was all a bit surreal.
My breakfast bar is covered with flowers right now, bouquets in the palette of fall colors- purple, orange, yellow, crimson, brown. Bethany asked me many times, what kind of flowers did I want? And at the time it seemed just right- it matched the girls' cute pumpkin patch dresses, the mild warmth and sunshine of the last days of fall. The overwhelming feeling in my heart of Thankfulness. Perhaps I forgot how quickly and suddenly Thanksgiving is over, yielding way to CHRISTMAS, that season when we struggle to cling to Advent and wrestle with the demons of our flesh, our materialism. I've been struggling the last couple of days with the urge to yell to the world, "Stop! I need more time for Thanksgiving this year." These flowers on my breakfast bar? They have a few days of life left. It isn't time yet for green and red and shopping and parties and presents. In my mind and my heart, it's still Thanksgiving.

And that's what this post is about. It's December 1st and I know that soon, the time of transition is here. There are a few things I need to say before I can move on.

I'm more thankful- and thankful for more-this year, than ever before. I'm thankful that my birthday fell on Thanksgiving this year because it seems all the more appropriate and special.

I'm thankful for Jesus. It all begins and ends with Him. Everything pales in comparison to Him. Through Him we live, and move, and have our being. He is the Meaning behind everything and the Reason for everything, our Joy and our Hope. Nothing is beyond Him. Nothing could stop His light from coming into the world, and the grave could not hold Him, not defeat Him, for He defeated death.

I'm thankful for the life of my son, Everett Zechariah. I'm thankful for the power of God to change my heart and open my eyes to His work. The morning after Everett was born, I woke up and struggled with grief and fear and cried out to God and asked, "Why, Lord? If You were going to take him, why couldn't we have lost him at 5 or 6 weeks, why couldn't he have slipped away in quiet invisibility, without going through this pain and struggle? What is the purpose of a baby born too soon, to suffer in the world for a day and then die?" and within just a few days of praying that, God gave me my answers. Who are we to even question His sovereignty, but in His MERCY and grace he revealed so many things to me. I came to see the opportunity to meet our son alive, not as a hardship, but as a gift. Not as a wound, but a blessing. I came to be thankful that he WASN'T born at home, that he did manage to get stabilized after birth, that he DID have a chance to live with every human effort possible provided for him. I came to see how the whole process of struggle, fear, worry, surrender, grief, tears, condolences, services, Worship- how they were a blessing to not just our family, but our extended family, our friends, our acquaintances, our coworkers, our neighbors, for so many people that we've never even met, and never will. How could a baby who lived 20 hours bring so much blessing to so many? It is the power of our God. It is His way. We would never choose this, but praise Him that He chooses for us. That He knows best.

I am thankful for God using this to soften my heart. A few months ago I wrote to our pastor Jorn in State College and I shared with him how much I was struggling with not doing the things that keep my mind happy- reading, writing, doing math- and with the intensity of mothering two little ones with one more on the way. "In my flesh, I'm miserable," I wrote to him. I'm thankful for God now giving me peace that He didn't take this baby because of that attitude I had and expressed. I'm thankful for God relieving me of the tendency to feel horribly, horribly guilty about what I said, for giving me sympathy for the Nancy Elizabeth of a few months ago who hadn't yet been transformed by the terrible beauty of loss. And I'm thankful, most of all, that that restlessness and discontent has been- at least temporarily- destroyed most thoroughly and naturally by what has happened. It's like I'm a whole different person. The whole world looks different, more shimmering, more ephemeral. I can see how beautiful my children are every day- their unruliness, their disobedience, their neediness is beautiful to me because I can see Life now. I am so very, very thankful for that life, that grace.

I am thankful for God using this to break through the bondage I've been in for so long, enslaved to the easy, empty things of this world. It's been YEARS now since I've been able to form a habit of reading my Bible every day. I couldn't pick a book, I kept saying. Now I'm reading Zechariah, and soon Isaiah, to find out what God Remembers...

I'm thankful for the tenderness of my husband. I'm thankful for the feel and sound of his warm tears over me as we each held hands with our son while he died. I'm thankful for the time we had to talk as we came home from the hospital. I'm thankful to think what God will be doing in his own heart, maybe new and different from what He's doing in mine.

I'm thankful for the beauty of my girls, of how precious they are to me. I'm thankful how they are children of this earth, inquisitive and bright-eyed and fiesty and joyous, with tousled hair and child-like tempers and hearts full of love for those around them. I'm thankful that their souls are still so carefully hidden away inside those little vessels, not burst open wide with blinding brightness like their little brother's soul. I'm thankful that God chose LIFE for them here with us, in all its terrible, glorious imperfections. I'm mourning the loss of their chance to be big sisters at this age, THIS time, but thankful to know that their Heavenly Father really does know what's best for them. I'm thankful that Charlotte is here to drink her brother's milk, that God has spared me the agony of empty arms that so many women know.

I'm thankful for Everett's grandparents and aunts and uncles. I'm so very, very thankful that my mom arrived in time to see him while he lived, because I knew that meant so much to her. I'm so thankful for the millions of "little," tangible things they've done for me in the past few weeks that have added up to an enormity- time to rest, to grieve, to write this post. I'm thankful for the feel of their hugs, the knowledge that I could call any of them at any time of the night or day just to talk.

I'm thankful for the dearest, old friends we have scattered near and far. I'm thankful for Bethany's best-friend grief, for her compassion and her willingness with Eric and Micah to come so far to BE here, despite the impracticality and hardness of the trip. I'm thankful for our church families in Atlanta, Bethlehem, State College, and Boulder, reaching across the miles with the warmth of their love and prayers. I'm thankful for the few we know who aren't believers who have been touched or moved by this in some way, thankful- and hoping- that they might see a glimpse of Christ in this.

I'm thankful for our new friends in Johnson City. For the people of Sojourn, for Bill and Lyndsey Jolley, who worked so hard and did so much to quickly organize and host the memorial service for Everett. Their hospitality and love were such a blessing. For Todd and Ginger Hare and the people of our Sunday morning Anglican church- I'm thankful that God sent Todd to the hospital at just the right moment, and thankful for the things he shared at the graveside service that came from his own experience of losing a baby. For all the people of Milligan College who don't know us very well yet, but still want to show their love. For Debbie Siebenaler, whose straightforward Midwestern cheeriness (and incredible servant's heart) were such welcome companions through this whole journey. For Susan Scheiman, who served our family so far above and beyond the meager compensation we gave her. For so many others- some we still haven't even met- who said, "Please call me. Please let us know any way we can help" in a way where I could tell they really meant it.

I'm thankful for the future we have. Thankful to no longer be in pain, no longer worried that every time I get up to mother my children or live my life, I could be hurting my baby. Thankful for an able body that can be used to serve others, and praying that I do not quickly let go of the lessons I've learned about serving and sharing and being poured out. Thankful for the opportunities we will have in the coming months to find new adventures with our girls and explore what God has for us as, for now, a family of four, missing Everett forever but honoring God in the lives he's given us now to be lived.

I'm thankful for faith. Never in my life have I been FORCED to have the kind of faith that I have now, the faith that Jesus is holding my baby in His arms. I'm so very, very thankful for God leading me to this point.

I'm thankful for the imperfections of this post, because if I weren't so painfully aware of them, I wouldn't realize, as C.S. Lewis said, that Joy is really longing for our home in Heaven. It's so wonderfully, gloriously Frustrating to not be home yet. Thank you Lord that someday, we'll BE there!

I'm thankful for Jesus. It all begins and ends with You, Lord. Thank you for coming to this earth. Thank you for giving Your life to save us. Thank you Heavenly Father that YOU did not spare your firstborn Son, but willingly gave His life because You loved US so much. Thank You Lord for knowing our pain, for You wept when Lazarus died, but You didn't only know it, You came to REDEEM it. Thank you for Advent, a season of waiting, waiting through the agony and the ecstasy of this world for the glorious sign of Your appearing, our redemption.

Thank you for Christmas, for I'm ready to welcome it now. :-)

Love, Neb

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Hazy Dayz...

Greetings, loving audience!

I have been in my typical post-travel, post-holidays mental coma the past few days (is today Wednesday...? Is it really?) and also quite sleepy much of the time (I will cut out refined sugar in 2010!! I WILL!! Just watch me do it! Right after I make this last batch of chocolate fudge...) and now that I am sitting here typing this, I really don't know what I was going to say to you all today...? If anything at all?

And immediately after typing that, my two-year-old spilled her glass of milk in an impressive fiasco that managed to splatter the carpet (a lot), the chair, the baby swing, the Christmas decorations box, the wall...

My ten goals for 2010 have been printed as one or two word versions in blue marker and hung on the wall!! And writing in this blog is one of my goals!! So I am TOTALLY on task, right?

Time to make more coffee.

Did Eudora Welty start this way? Shakespeare? With all this non-writing writing? Did James Joyce wake up every morning and type "Time to make more coffee" before eventually pounding out Finnegan's Wake? James Joyce never tandem nursed two children who never slept at the same time, did he???

Okay, in closing this little nothing of a post, let's vote on what my NEXT post should be, huh? Options:

1) Ten things I hate that everybody else seems to love
2) My ten favorite ways to save money
3) Ten foods that are actually GOOD for you that actually taste good, too!
4) Ten cute pictures/ videos of my kids
5) (your own suggestion here!)

Thanks guys!
Love, Neb

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"I would give both of my hands to be a writer..."

That was a line of the poem I wrote in college. (I only wrote one, as far as I can recall.) Are you appreciating that healthy dose of melodrama/ irony/ gut-wrenching self-revelation as much as I am? I recall being surprised when I wrote it. Wasn't I applying to grad school in math? What's this writing business about? Apparently my inner poet knew (how fitting, I suppose.)

And then the first time I met my new grad school friends at Lehigh, we were sitting around having dinner and talking about what we wanted to do with advanced degrees in math, and I said I wanted to be a writer. It just came out that way- despite my better judgment.

I haven't been blogging because to me, writing anything requires 1) unlimited time, and 2) peace and quiet. As a breastfeeding mom, I NEVER have unlimited time. The clock is always ticking until it's time to nurse someone again. Peace and quiet happens occasionally, though not for great stretches of time. And you know how my M.O. tends to be the "Perfect or Nothing" approach? Since the "perfect" opportunity to write in here doesn't come along very often, you've been getting a whole lot of the alternative the past few months. The past year, really. Ever since Madelaine learned to talk. But as my blogging rate has waned, I've gradually realized something interesting: I can live without doing Math. I can live without a lot of the things that are not part of my life now that I'm a mom.

But I can't live without Writing.

Without the outlet of writing, my mind atrophies. I feel like I live each day waiting for the day to be over, instead of actually LIVING that day. I would say that there's something wrong with this on a spiritual level, except that I believe in what Jorn preached about a few weeks ago- God created us with passions, and we are meant to be using them. So the TV is on, people are talking, I can't hear myself think, but I will write in spite of it. I will publish things on here that aren't "perfect" (whatever that means) or even GOOD, for that matter. Because the only way to ever write anything good is just to write a LOT, and eventually something good will come out.


On a roll!! (Does two days in a row count as a "roll"??)

Yo, my people!! What is UP??? (I'm on my second cup of coffee. Hopefully that excuses that little outburstive greeting by my inner want-to-be-cool* 13 year old, who last spoke out in 1993.)

So I'm really liking this "goals" thing I started in the last post. Time to reorder it, expand the list, shrink the descriptions, and put it in a big bold font so I can look at it later. Also post it on my wall somewhere, I think.

In 2010, I hope to...

1) Have a regular Bible reading and prayer habit (in whatever way God leads me to do so.)

2) Teach Madelaine (and eventually Charlotte) about the Bible.

3) Limit the girls' TV time to 1 hr/day (plus evenings)/ plan a few activities each week, as needed.

4) Walk about 3 hours a week (treadmill or outdoors).

5) Read 25 books (make a list on Goodreads?)

6) Get some photos of my kids printed! and organized in albums.

7) Write in this blog at least once a week (that sounds more doable than every day, right?)

8) Go on a date with my husband at least twice a month.

9) Get a better system for storing recipes, planning meals, and sticking to a grocery budget.

10) Hmmm... need some kind of financial goal here. Would love to say "finish paying off student loan" but that's a WAY long shot (unless Nate ends up with a really high paying job for the second half of 2010.) How about, pay at least $300 on student loan each month, Jan- June? That's $1800, not bad. [This might get revised after I talk to Nate.]

There you have it! There's my list! I am super jazzed about this. And in closing, I will note that these 10 things are suggested because they are, very specifically, things that I am NOT doing now that I constantly am thinking that I WISH I were doing. There are a lot of other things going on in my life now that are not goals because I'm already doing them- church involvement, a ministry opportunity, [some] keeping in touch with faraway friends and family, math tutoring, some basic homemaking activities (cleaning, groceries, cooking, paying bills, laundry), and some activities with the girls (library, song time, playground, occasional playdates). I'm listing those things as a reminder to myself that even though I feel like I waste a lot of time, there ARE things that I accomplish each day, even if they tend to fall into the category of "urgent- not important." It's that "important- not urgent" category I've got to work on (don't we all?) which is what the above list is all about.

So what are YOUR goals for 2010?

Love you all!

*The correct [popularly, not grammatically, that is] term for this is "wannabe"? At least in 1993, it was.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The house is quiet now...

and so I will open up this window and give it a shot.

Oh, gentle readers. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I miss writing in here. I've kind of been obsessed with it recently, to tell you the truth. But I am so tired all the time, and the babies always need me, and the prattle of their little voices overwhelms my internal processor. Virginia Woolf said something about needing a room of one's own, didn't she? (Have I talked about that on here before?) Life, as a whole, overwhelms me. But we've known that for awhile now. Let me try to focus now; in general, because I can't write Everything, I end up writing Nothing. But tonight, for you (which really means, for me) I will write Something.

Let's talk about some goals for 2010, shall we?

*It's time to start doing some Bible stories with Madelaine on a more regular basis. I have flannelgraph. I have curriculum. The reason I didn't start the curriculum a few months ago, when I found it, is that it does take some prep time (and just some time to sort through all the features and activities to pick out what components I actually want to do with her). But I want to start.

*I would love to be able to limit her TV time to an hour a day most days (ie, an hour of kids' programs during the day), plus whatever Nate wants to watch at night. To do this, I think I need to plan a few activities each week that we can do together- simple crafts, etc. Certainly we can spend a lot of time just playing with her toys, but she does get bored once in a while, and that's when we're both tempted to take the easy way out (TV).

*I have a little treadmill now!!!!! Got it on Craigslist for $65. And just like everyone in America, I want to start using it...

*Catch up on getting some photos printed to go in albums

*Get my recipes organized... preferably online. Plan a menu a month at a time... figure out ways to save on groceries (buying in bulk? coupons? making more stuff from scratch? monthly trip to Aldi? online sources...? hmmm...)

*Get a reading light so I can read while I nurse Maddy to sleep at night. Make a list of 25 books I want to read in 2010. (Suggestions?)

*I wish I could write in this blog every day. For now that's a wish, not a goal.

And now I must get ready for bed...

Love to the world,

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Close to midnight

Oh Internets,

My children don't sleep much enough. Nate and I are both really tired.

I have an apple for snack!

This Saturday my parents are coming, and I am super excited! Then we're going to the Lehigh Valley area so Nate can go to a conference Monday/ Tuesday, and we can all visit people. Yay!

Mopping the kitchen floor was supposed to happen today. But it's midnight. I think it's time for bed, yeah?

There is so little time in every day for doing anything other than taking care of my house and kids. At least it seems that way. I miss writing in this blog. But this is only a season of life. And a good season, at that.