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double dare

hi.

i dare you.

i mean, i double-dare you

to guess what is on jude’s face.

it’s not scary, i promise.

okay, well maybe it’s a little scary at first,

but not for long.

can you guess?

 

clippings

Jude’s

sweet

curls,

his

golden

locks

are

going

going

going

gone

(who is that boy? and where is my baby?)


the wind blows

Two nights ago, I wiped the day’s crumbs off the counter and reached for the lights, glancing once more at the kitchen. Clean. Ready for the morning’s crumbs.

I tiptoed towards my room careful not to wake my slumbering family and slipped into a bed already warmed by my husband. And then I began the task of falling asleep. It was late and I had to awake early.

It started with the creaking of the hall door. The wind was pirouetting through our home, pushing into my dreams and knocking at my eyelids. The door became a timpani thudding again and again as the sprinto soprano added the whish and whoosh of a not-quite-lullaby.

In my dreams curtains were flying, books were falling, and we were spinning to Oz and the Tin Man.  Only the cyclone was in our house twirling from room to room.

At some point in the whirling night, I pulled my weary self out into the hallway to fortify the banging door. All I could find in the dark was throw pillows. And so my dreams continued with a slightly muffled percussion.

My alarm greeted me three minutes after I had opened my eyes confirming that the too few hours that I had allotted for sleep had come to an abrupt stop.

I repeated my tiptoeing of the previous evening, which didn’t feel as far away as it should, and set off to dispel what was dream and what was wind.

I picked up the shuffled pillows and opened the door to discover a rainbow of dinner napkins spread the length of my dining room floor. I stood under that rainbow and tried to piece together where they had come from.

I didn’t remember leaving a stack in the dining room. I stepped through to the kitchen and spied an empty napkin holder.

The wind had snuck in through the window and gathered up the napkins with his blue-tipped fingers. He whisked them through the side door, spun them about, bowed, and left them fanned out in a perfect arc. One right after the other. Some bent. Some curled. Some stacked stair-stepped with others.

I stood in wonder.

I thought about our summer. How the coolness of this breeze carried the hints of autumn, the end of our warm, blissful days. How I feel changes blowing and shifting our family.

How in the course of three month a little boy that I know has gone from

this

to this


to this.

My little babe with tousled curls swings his bat. He hits. He cheers. The ball flies. He drops his bat and runs. He knows not where.

And my girl, she runs too, sprinting into second grade.

We’re caught up in this whirling, this forward motion.

And I could pass off these scattered napkins as the aftermath of a peculiar gust that spun counter-clockwise in one room and clockwise in another, drawing tissue up into its vortex and dropping them as it dissipated.

Or I could believe in a purposeful God’s whose fingerprints appear in every aspect of my day. A God who knows where we are spinning to and is laying out our days in a particular pattern.

I choose the latter.

And from where I’m standing now, I see snapshots of this summer spread out like Polaroids in a beautiful arc of memories.

my song bird is seven

Updated: The video is public now, so you should be able to view it.

I wake in the morning early
And always, the very first thing
I poke out my head
And I sit up in bed
And I sing, and I sing, and I sing!

by Rose Fyleman

This is Ava. And that is her story. For seven years, I have been the primary benefactor of Ava’s songs, the songs of her heart.

She wakes up singing; she goes to bed singing.  She sings to her stuffed animals and to her crayons. She sings to keys on the piano and to the produce in the store. She sings to cars passing by and to people eating nooodles.

When I first met her seven years ago this morning, my very first thought was “Hello Ava.” Until that moment, she was going to be Evelyn. Her dad had the very same thought and so, she was Ava. We knew that Ava meant “life,” but soon discovered that it also meant “bird.” It was as though she said, “Hello Daddy. Hello Mama. I sing!”

And oh, what a song bird she is. She has songs for getting dressed and songs for folding laundry. She has songs for wearing tap shoes and songs for cleaning the bathroom. She has welcome home songs for daddy, love songs for mama and lullabies for Jude.

This morning on our ride to school she sang a little ditty about how her doll’s hat’s name was Joey. And wasn’t Joey such a beautiful name.

Even her artwork sings.

She marks all special occasions with her own spontaneous songs. You know that feeling when something is so wonderful that you wish that you could break out into song–she does it. They burst out of her filling the air with her jubilee.

Today on her seventh birthday, I thought I would share one of those moments with you. During her brother’s first birthday party, after the candle had been blown out and the presents had been opened, Ava saw a room full of guests with nothing left to do. She disappeared  for a costume change and reappeared with her own gift.

Happy Birthday my beautiful song bird! May you always sing and sing and sing!!


doppelgänger

exhibit a:

exhibit b:

exhibit c:


Two years ago, we went to the Saturday night service at our church. It was Mother’s Day weekend and our friends were dedicating their little girl to the Lord. Our church honors mothers who have lost children by handing out white roses. I was relieved to be going Saturday night because the thought of walking out of church Mother’s Day morning and passing moms with hands full of children while I was clutching one small hand and three rose stems was unbearable.

I sat in the pew heavy with disappointment and despair. May was the darkest of months. Our hopes for another child were growing dimmer and it felt as if our prayers were falling on deaf ears.

That evening our pastor preached on love, God’s glorious love.

“The Lord is good to all,” he read, “and his mercy is over all that he has made.” He said that “God wants you to know yourself loved” and “I have preached this message so that you would know more fully and experience more deeply how you are loved.”

I did not feel loved. I believed I was loved, but I could not feel it. Each truth felt one-part hope and one-part sting.

He closed by saying, “Life is hard. We need all the help we can get now to know the greatness of God’s covenant love for his sheep. Come to Christ and discover that you are loved with invincible, never-ending, covenant love.”

I could not move. The church emptied and I was still sitting there weeping. Nate lifted me up and led me to pray with him.

I remember looking up at him through my tears and saying, “I believe what you just preached. Every word. I believe that God loves, but we have lost three babies and our hopes for another one seems bleak. And it is hard to feel that God loves me when what we want, another child, is being kept from us.”

He put his hands on us and prayed for us. He praised the Lord for evidence of his work in our lives through the testimony of our faith. And then he prayed that God in his mercy would give us another child. We thanked him as Ava skipped past us, up to the front to pick out our white roses. She turned and marched out in front of us waving the roses like three little flags of surrender.

Three weeks Saturdays later I stared stunned at a positive pregnancy test. The dark clouds began to break as sweet mercy rained down on us.

And two years later, in the brightness of the morning we stood at the front of the same church holding a red rose and twenty-three pounds of love. We came to dedicate our son to the Lord who had given him to us.

Our Jude Matthew. His story is written into his name. He is the rejoicing that comes in the morning. He is the gift from God for which we prayed.

After he was blessed, Jude grabbed hold of that red rose and waved it up and down. I am here. You prayed and God sent me. Up and down, a bold red flag. God loves you. God loves you. God loves you.

Jude Matthew, you are a gift. A sweet providential gift from God. We pray that you will know the giver of all good gifts, that He will be your counselor and comforter. May you be a man who is strong in the Lord and mighty in his power. May the Lord deal bountifully with you all the days of your life and may you always trust in his loving-kindness. In the days of hope and gladness and in the days of sorrow and darkness, may you rejoice in the Lord’s salvation and sing to Him forever and ever. Amen.

I live up my eyes to the mountains

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—

he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

I don’t know about you, but here the sun is only beginning to melt the massive amount of snow we’ve received this winter.  When I look out my window I still see more snow than I see grass. The warm rains are beginning to wash it away, but we have another snowy day right around the corner.

The other night when we were in the midst of bi-weekly snow storms, my husband decided that the only thing to cure his winter blues would be a juicy summertime burger.

We layered up in our coats and scarves and hats and boots and mittens, which at this point in the season have begun to feel as akin to our bodies as our very own skin. We piled our padded selves onto frozen seats, buckled up, and made our way to Five Guys.

He was right. Those hot greasy burgers melted in our mouths like a sizzling summer day. As we ate our burgers we made plans for what we would do when we could see the grass again and grilling a burger was a weekly affair.

On the way home the roads were slick and snowy. We came off the highway and drove right past a car that had just slid off the road and into the snow bank. You have to understand that we have nearly four foot snow banks on the sides of most of our streets. Ava walks from the street to the sidewalk with the snow coming up over her head on both sides.

This car is up on the drift, the tires aren’t even touching the ground. We pass him and I know instantly what my husband is going to say, “I should go help him.”

I nod as we double back and park on the opposite side of the street.  The snow is silently falling through the shadows as Nate dodges through traffic to get to the stranded car leaving Ava and I at the perfect vantage point to watch the unfolding drama.

At this point I should tell you that I’m not from Minnesota so I’m not sure what one is supposed to do with the car stuck in the bank. But Nate is from Minnesota so he knows and begins to do the things that you should do if you are from stuck in a snow drift in Minnesota.

Within minutes this big macho man in a big macho truck arrives. From the moment his boots hit the pavement it is clear that he’s going to the lay his massive hands on the car and show these two how it’s done. So he starts telling what’s what and everyone braces themselves for the big shove.  He squats down like a center lineman ready to snap the ball and push the line forward—nothing. It doesn’t budge. A couple more pushes and the man stands up. He shakes his head, as if to say, if I can’t move it, it can’t be moved. He gets in his truck and drives away.

Nate and the driver continue doing whatever it is you do. Digging out snow. Rotating tires. Trying to get traction. So on and so forth.

Moments later another big dude arrives on the scene. Same story. He starts waving his hefty arms and calling out the play. He throws his weight into the hood and it doesn’t move. He leaves as quickly as he came.

Next a Papa John’s delivery guy pulls over. He jumps out with a miniature snow shovel. I would guess it’s the size of my arm. Nate, the driver, and Mr. Delivery take turns shoveling with mini-shovel until Mr. Delivery realizes that people don’t tip well for cold pizzas. He leaves the men with his child-sized shovel and drives off into the storm.

At this point, Ava and I start praying. I pray that her dad doesn’t get hit by other drivers coming off the highway onto this dark snowy road. She prays for four men. She is quite certain that four men working together will get the car out.

We sit bundled up in our cozy car the heat warming our toes as Jude’s slow breathing adds to the quiet hush.  The storm is wrapping up our car in quilt after quilt of snow as Ava looks out across the shadowy street to the scene that is appearing more and more helpless.

“My daddy’s not going to give up until he’s out of there. He’s a boy who doesn’t stop until the work is done.”

It’s true, so true. Other than the part of about him being a boy, which called for a quick review about grown-up boys being called men. The car seemed brighter and warmer with the knowledge that her dad wasn’t going to give up. He was still out there shoveling and pushing, shoveling and pushing.

Before long another man showed up with a standard size snow shovel. The snow under those tires started flying. Ava cheered as the fourth man arrived with yet another shovel. In a matter of moments the four men working together dug out the tires, pushed the car out the bank, shook hands and ran off in different directions into the darkness.

We praised God for answering all our prayers as Nate rubbed his hands together in front of the heaters.

In Sunday school, Ava is learning the attributes of God.  Each week they learn a new truth about God that corresponds with the next letter of the alphabet.  The week after this storm, she was lying in bed trying to sleep while contemplating the fact that God never sleeps. It’s hard to do. Go to sleep while imagining never sleeping.

And so I was pulled onto her bed and into this puzzle. And together we contemplated what it means that God is always watching us and always working for our good.

“Ava,” I said, “Remember when we went out for hamburgers in that storm and we saw the guy stuck in the snow?

“Yes.”

“And remember how daddy helped him even though it took a long time and lots of other guys went home.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“And remember how you said, that daddy wasn’t going to give up until the work was done.”

“Yah.”

“Our God is like that, Ava. He never stops working for our good. Even when it’s dark and snowy. And the snow were trying to remove keeps piling up around us, he’s still helping us. He never takes a break. And, Ava he’s not going to stop until the work is done. “

It’s true. Even when we feel like our tires are up in the bank with no hope of traction. Even when everyone else gives up and drives way. Even when the snow comes down faster than the little shovel can remove it. Our God is still there, right there in the storm.

We also have a daddy who’s not going to quit until he’s done.

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