Tag Archives: family

On Sweetness and Mother’s Day

Copyright © 2012 Erin Molloy Photography

It’s Mother’s Day morning and last night was one of those up and down kinds of sleeps. Chris and I are at the stage where we go to bed in the unknowing: will the boys sleep all night? Will they wake four times? Last night August had to pee, then he couldn’t go back to sleep. Then he still couldn’t go back to sleep. And, then he really couldn’t go back to sleep. Each trip to his room, I found myself accidentally kicking my leg against something: a laundry basket, a couch.

By 5:45 when Brooksie was crying, I was so fuzzy and frantic (my usually style of mid-night waking) that I literally ran into the doorframe in our room. I slammed my cheekbone loud enough that Chris jumped up and I moaned and fell back on the bed. (He went to check on Brooksie.)

So, sleeping in on Mother’s Day morning is not only called for, it’s fitting. I’m sort of a mess this morning, what with my bruised cheekbone and puffy eyes (I accidentally got cucumber juice in them while cooking Friday night and they don’t take kindly to cucumbers. Remind me to tell you a great story about that sometime.)

I’ve been reading in bed with coffee by my side, brought to me by Christopher in my favorite bright red mug. And my boys are in and out. Brooksie loves to waddle in and gaze flirtatious and mischievous at me. He raises his eyebrows, makes a serious face, then smiles and almost laughs and waddles away. So far during my reading time, he has come in to find a waded up receipt (which he played with for five minutes, carrying it back and forth from my room to the kitchen), a green pen (from which he couldn’t remove the cap, thankfully. He used it to “comb” Ezra the Super Cat, who will take any form of attention he can get, even when it involves a green pen in the hands of a one-year-old.). Now, Brooksie is back in the room bare-handed. He walks to the side table, shakes the lamp a few times while I remind him how that’s not a good idea. And then he’s pinching his pointer and thumb together and touching the table. He’s amazed with this development, that his fingers can gather and make a cone of sorts, that he can push them against the table and experience some sort of finger-sensation. He looks at me and smiles. Then he opens his hand and looks inside at his palm. He does some assessments. He’s happy with what he sees. His palm is good, he decides. Then he’s out of the room again. Off to something new.

Soon, Chris calls me to the kitchen where my favorite meals is being served: Eggs Benedict (and I promise my love for the creamy sauce has nothing to do with my love for the saint). Chris makes it for me every Mother’s Day, every birthday. Homemade hollandaise stirred perfectly over boiling water. Today, though, the lemon is moldy and there is nothing Chris can do to replace it. The sauce doesn’t congeal and it doesn’t help that August is crying on the couch. (His morning show on Netflix has been buffering for ages.)

So I enter the kitchen in my pjs, hair in a pile on my head, cheek beaten by the doorframe, eyes puffy from the Cucumber Incident. August is crying about the lack of “Busytown Mysteries” and my husband hands me a mimosa, because that’s just the sort of thing he does. And I think how all of it is perfect: the uncongealed hollandaise, the frustrated three-year-old, the baby astounded by his own hands.

We sit at the table to pray and just before we bow our heads, August whispers to Chris across the table: “Should we get Mama’s flowers?”

“Let’s pray first,” my husband says. And they do, thankful for me.

Then they slip away and return with orchids in a vase. August choose them, he says: yellow, my favorite color.

And on the card: A list of questions Chris asked the boys (of course only one of them could answer):

  1. What is you favorite part of Mama? A: Leaning on her belly.
  2. What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy? A: Play cars
  3. How do you show Mommy you love her? A: This answer is acted out: He squeezes the chair with his arms.
  4. What do you want to say to Mama? A: Thank you
  5. For what? A: She lets me get frozen yogurt even though I didn’t get it for my dessert

 
Also this morning, during the lazy coffee drinking in bed, I read words about sweetness in Lauren Winner’s book Still. They’re the words of a twelfth-century Cistercian named Baldwin of Forde. He says:

“Jesus is sweet…He is sweet in prayer, sweet in speech, sweet in reading, sweet in contemplation, sweet in compunction, and in the jubilation of the heart. He is sweet in the mouth, sweet in the heart, sweet in love; he is the love of sweetness and the sweetness of love…Those who have tasted of him grow hungry, and those who are hungry will be satisfied and the sated will cry out the memory of his abundant sweetness.”

And I think: Is there a better word for this moment, this time in my life while these babies learn to be themselves and my husband loves me better and better, while all at once I feel so young and still so rich with age? Sweetness.

Oh, Jesus, we cry at the memory of your abundant sweetness.

 

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Tomato Thankful

  • This bright red tomato just picked from our garden. On the last day of April??? (I can’t get over the weirdness of this. I know I may be from Texas, but Amarillo and Austin are 500 miles away from each other. That equals two very different climates. See here and here if you want to be nerdy about it. And after being a grown-up on the East coast, the idea of April being anything but ground-smushy and 60 degrees is still crazy to me. So, fresh tomatoes from the garden in the middle of “spring”? Strange and kind of wonderful.)
  • A new camera other than my lame-o phone camera! (Hence the photo above.) My kids will finally have their lives documented!
  • A friend-date last night with Andrea
  • A lovely weekend with my brother and sister-in-law…having them around, especially while Chris was out of town for the weekend, was such a gift. By Sunday lunch, Brooksie was crying when Jason left the table for the bathroom. (And calling “Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma” after him. Should I be offended?) Also, they left me a surprise thank you note and a bar of dark chocolate, which is the best way to ensure that I’ll always be their friend.
  • That my husband got to spend a whole weekend with his best guy friends from the east coast. That he loves his friends as much as he does and for how he inspires me to love mine well.
  • Brooksie’s newest word: “Eh-a,” which is baby speak for “Ezra the Super Cat.”
  • August’s sudden lovey feelings for our next-door neighbor. When she wasn’t around to play with us on Saturday and I suggested we walk to the park, he countered: “But, there aren’t any cute girls at the park!” Seriously? Where did he learn about cute girls?
  • The book, Psalms for Young Children that I discovered at the Eerdmans table at the Festival of Faith and Writing. The pictures are beautiful and the Psalms are true to form: there are sad ones and happy ones, and I’m amazed by how much August is connecting with the laments. More to come about my thoughts on why I believe we should be exposing our kids to both kinds of Psalms.
  • That my very sleepy almost-four-year-old fell asleep in my arms half dressed in his pajamas at 7:45 on Saturday night. I sang to him and smelled his clean hair and promised my heart that I wouldn’t forget what a gift it was to rock my big baby to sleep. Then I tried to stand up with his 36 pounds in my arms and lift him up to his lofted bed. It was hard work. Aren’t all beautiful things a little bit difficult?
  • The countdown to summertime has begun! Did you know I love summer for a gazillion reasons? After my two non-summers in San Francisco, I’m so thrilled to experience all the heat and ice cream and mosquito bites and sprinkler playing and sunscreen lathering and hamburger grilling with my boys.
  • Can I brag about my husband for a second? (You’re thinking: Isn’t that all you do on Thankful Tuesday?) After I came home from the Festival of Faith and Writing all rejuvenated and excited to write, he decided that I should have a whole day away every month, where I can go somewhere to write and meet friends for lunch and generally do whatever I want to do. That idea sounds kind of awesome, right? I’m thankful for a husband who is always thinking of ways to care for me.
  • For sundresses and iced coffees and sunsets and bubbles and baby pools
  • For popsicle makers and my dad’s birthday and my the chance to make up stories in the car on the way to all the places and watching August become himself and learning who that is. For the insight that he, “likes to watch soccer, not play it.” It’s good to learn about this person who is learning about himself.

It’s Thankful Tuesday. What are you thankful for?

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Fainting + Blistery Walks + Baptisms and New Churches = Thankful

The Rosemont College Chapel where Liberti Main Line worships (via libertichurchmainline.org)

A Thankful Tuesday List:

  • My tendency to hit my funny bone and faint is kind of a joke in my family. I pass out, not when my life is at risk or I’ve truly destroyed a significant part of my appendages, but when I fall down on my knees or hit my elbow on a counter. Such a dorky problem. So, Sunday morning, when I banged my knee on the wall while getting into the shower (going on one hour of less sleep than usual), it was sort of inevitable. I’m thankful for my husband who woke up to my knee-cry and rescued me from my disastrous slump of a pass-out. (And all my dramatic tears over how I-might-possibly-but-I-don’t-want-to throw up.) Sidenote: I have a bruise but I made it through. 
  • For routines and returning home
  • For my Deenie and Grandaddy (my mom’s parents) who (you won’t believe this) have been married 70 (SEVENTY!) years as of last Thursday. Is that not the most amazing, insane thing you’ve ever heard? For the way they sit next to each other on the couch and secretly hold hands, for how cute they were in those black and white photos, her in that smart suit, him in his uniform. For the work ethic they passed down to us (both from West Texas cotton farming families). For how Deenie has always combed Grandaddy’s hair every morning for 70 years. For the hope and courage of living into one’s nineties. I’m proud of them and I’m amazed by them and am incredibly honored to have them as my examples of marriage.
  • For the gift of seeing my freshmen small group girls love and support one of their own on a particularly hard day for her. They prayed for her and sent her notes in the midst of spring break and being separated from one another. I love that real community is happening.
  • For the first Sunday of Liberti Church on the Main Line, a church plant that some of our dearest friends in the Philly area have been building toward for two years. Chris and I have been dreaming and praying along with them and this past Sunday was such a wonderful confirmation of God’s dreams for this church.
  • For baby Eliza’s baptism (she’s my friend Jamie’s) and the chance I had to be there. For her sweet temperament and smiling nature. And for the forty-five minute walk I got to have alone Sunday morning (from Jamie’s church to mine) after the baptism. I love walking. I especially love walking alone.
  • For Brooksie learning how to joke around and make silly faces at dinner. For his new sign: bubbles.
  • For whatever it was that woke me up yesterday morning at 5:30 (which was actually 4:30 a day before that). (The thing that woke me up was crying children, but I digress.) I had a lovely hour of reading and prayer. Who gets to have that? It was just what I needed.
  • Oatmeal
  • Sunday afternoon sunshine and an afternoon of weeding in the backyard while the boys played.
  • A bathtub for achey feet (that 45 minute walk was in heels) and an achey knee (that bruise was kind of deep) and a good book.
  • Sitting beside my husband on the couch in the quiet morning while the world is still dark. (I’m so thankful he drinks coffee now and gets up when I do! This is a very new development in our marriage.)
  • I can’t believe this, but my baby is turning one on Friday. ONE!!!!
  • For my mom’s healing and the chance she has to spend a couple of days with my grandparents this week.

Now it’s time for you to be thankful. Go!

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Thursdays are for healing…

As I write this on Wednesday night, my mom is home from the hospital, sleeping on the couch across the room. (I should actually get this posted and turn the light off so the dear woman can sleep.) She’s sore but she’s not a complainer. And she’s happy to have the boys around to entertain. Brooksie’s been putting on an “I can walk!” show that none of us can get enough of.

The other Brooks (the grown one, aka my brother) is home as well. He’s been in Haiti for the past week caring for kids at two different orphanages. These are children he knows, who wait for him to come back each year. Brooks is one of my personal heroes. Children flock to him because 1) He’s funny and can do some sweet magic tricks (Illusions, Michael!) and 2) He loves beautifully. He has this gift from God that allows him to know what a child needs to hear, to say exactly the thing that will give hope and a future to that child. (That’s why we all know he was always meant to be in ministry to hurting kids.)

So, if you understand that about Brooks, you’ll be even more moved by the post he wrote for his ministry’s blog yesterday. I never cease to be amazed by how God uses the broken of this world, the most destitute, the least likely, to be His voice and His touch and His healing balm.

Please click over and read “Jesus in the dirt,” my brother’s story of losing his friend Jeremy this past Sunday and receiving from a little boy named Rosy a message of God’s kindness.

Grateful for your prayers this week, friends.

Micha

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Hard Thankful

“One act of thanksgiving, when things go wrong with us, is worth a thousand thanks when things are agreeable to our inclinations.”

-St. John of Avila (via Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)

My brother Brooks’ lifelong friend died Sunday night. He had brain cancer. Jeremy was a groomsman in Brooks’ wedding. My brother loved him. Brooks has been in Haiti, working with some orphanages. He left last Wednesday knowing that his friend could pass away before he returned home. He’s supposed to speak at Jeremy’s funeral. He recorded his message ahead of time just in case.

I haven’t mentioned this on the blog yet, but my mom has been diagnosed with cancer. It seems so personal that I’ve held it close, I guess. My mom’s more private than I am (obviously, this blog will attest that I’m not so private), so I’ve also felt a little quiet about sharing it with you. (And, honestly, I haven’t liked the thought about seeing “my mom has cancer” in print.) But, today, she will be in surgery. It’s possible that they will remove the sick thing in her and that will be the end of it. Or it’s possible that more cancer will be found and we will have to face the possibility of chemo or radiation.

Today I’m on a flight home with my two boys to stay with my parents for the week, help care for my mom.

It’s Thankful Tuesday.

So, yeah, sometimes my Thankful Tuesday posts are probably the kind that make you feel like my world is all glitter and musical numbers. And, honestly, sometimes it is. But the hard Thanksgiving is found when there’s sacrifice in it. Today there’s sacrifice. Because I’m broken-hearted for my brother and for Jeremy’s family. Such loss. So unfair. And I’m hurt for my mom. I don’t want her to feel afraid. I don’t want her to face any kind of physical pain or heavy illness.

But sometimes being thankful is the sacrifice. That’s what Psalm 50 calls it: a sacrifice of thanksgiving. I don’t have to be thankful for my mom’s illness or for the terrible loss of my brother’s dear friend. Death is always Christ’s enemy. We should be outraged over it, because it is wrong, because death was never God’s intention. But I can be thankful that there’s grace in the horrible. There’s always grace. There’s always God’s good presence.

Yesterday morning, while I drove August to school, we had the radio on and news broke in to mention the school shooting in Cleveland. I realized what they were saying and that my boy’s ears were listening and I went to change the station, but it was too late. I looked in the rearview mirror and August wore the look he saves for serious questions.

He said, “We should pray for those people, Mama.”

Sigh. Yes we should.

Here is my sacrifice of Thanksgiving:

  • Bright red Texas sunsets and a backyard deck to watch them from
  • Coffee dates with my college girls, getting to love them and know them
  • My baby’s first steps! And how proud his little face was (and is).
  • Airplanes that can get me to my family in 45 minutes
  • The sweet sticky smell of springtime rain (yep, it’s springtime around here)
  • My friend Emily’s new baby girl

Will you join me in praying for my mom today? Please pray the doctors will remove all the cancer and that she will be healthy and encouraged by God’s nearness. I’m thankful for this community and all the encouragement you all bring to my life.

What’s your thankful?

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Guest Post: {Family and the Christian Year} Christine Warner on Lent and brushing teeth to candlelight

I’m so thrilled I have the chance to introduce you to Christine Warner today. She is one of my favorite gems I’ve discovered here in Austin. Her kindness, wisdom, warmth and bright spirit make her one of those people you can’t help but describe as “special.” I’ve mentioned before how she has challenged me by how she invites her children into the Christian Year. So I’m excited to welcome her into our semi-unregular discussions on that very topic as she shares her family’s Lenten tradition.

french-kissed.com via Pinterest

I came to the Anglican tradition as an exhausted, falling-asleep-while-reading-the-Bible-non-praying-new-mother.  I needed help. I seemed to need visual aids and props to live out my love for Jesus and to receive His love for me, guiderails for the sake of longevity for my prone-to-wander heart.  In my new church, I found the faith-sustaining frame of liturgy, a tradition of Jesus followers who, on a weekly basis, called me to Scripture reading and heart-wrenchingly rich prayers along with confession.  I found a profusion of beauty and a symbol-saturated daily life.  I found the church calendar which invites me to “inhabit the story of God” (Living the Christian Year, by Bobby Gross).  My fragile faith felt sustained; maybe there was a chance that I would still be pursuing God at eighty.

My husband and I have four children between the ages of 6 and 13.  Our calendar year now coexists with a surprisingly baroque Christian Year.  Now, with many years under our belt of family ceremonies and celebrations, the children eagerly anticipate and contend for the traditions we have grown into. Some attempted traditions never came to life.  Some traditions require a revival and restart.  Some traditions have become so deeply a part of our identity that I wonder if they could ever be removed.  “Giving up Electricity for Lent” is one such tradition, an idea planted in a seemingly random conversation with friends some 14 years ago

During Lent we are invited into the gift and privilege of fasting.  We let go of something that creates more room for God, more room to listen to Him, more room to love Him better, more room to love others, and less room for distraction, less room for the things that become “dressed-up” idols.  Each member of our family gives up small, but costly, habits during Lent (desserts, coffee, hair gel), but what most significantly defines our 46 days before Easter is electric darkness and silence.

First, what this does not mean: We do not go off the grid. We leave on: the fridge, the A\C or heat (depending on variable Texas weather), the gas, the water. On Sabbath/Sunday, once a week, we watch a family movie.   Now, what it does mean:  For only two hours a day we have access to the computer, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer.  For 40 days there are no electric lights at all.  Appliances and the computer are quiet most of the day.  We do not listen to recorded music. This means lots of candlelight and daylight, lots of silence and darkness, lots of room for God and each other.

We have written much about this experience in our journals, how hard it is and the glimpses of life and truth we drink in. I could write about the ways in which our expectations of encountering God were met, exceeded or dashed.  I could write about the extensive verses in Scripture about Light and Darkness. But here I’ll just share a few of our Lenten Darkness observations:

  1. We bump into furniture and drop things a little more, especially at the edges of tables and counters.  One might be reminded of episodes of the Three Stooges.
  2.  Fasting electricity, it turns out, means fasting from light, noise, information, and easy entertainment…eyes, ears, mind, heart are all quieted.
  3.  Dusk and sunset take on special meaning and beauty.  We have a heightened awareness of the light coming through the windows.  The reflections and shadows on different surfaces feel significant and precious.
  4. Darkness in the city isn’t very dark.  Ambient light envelops us.
  5. The best candle holders are the ones from Little House on the Prairie, a taper candle holder with a base plate and a finger loop. Tapers produce the brightest light.
  6. The morning becomes especially welcome. There’s an anticipation of sunrise…light
  7. The constant call to productivity as well as the ability to “get things done” fades and only the space around the candle or lamp is lit.  It is a call to presence (books, stories, conversation).
  8. You cannot sweep or clean thoroughly by candlelight.  I appreciate the cleanliness possible with light.  Dust, dirt, spots and wax drips are more generously tolerated for 46 days.
  9. We’ve gained a greater understanding of the significance of the solstices and those whose lives are directly shaped by the natural rhythms and forces.
  10. Small children cannot manage wax candles (can teenagers any better?), so there is an intimacy and bonding in the night routines done in each other’s company.  There is something magical and charming about all four children brushing their teeth to candlelight.
  11. Lent becomes missional in that I am able to talk with joy and freedom about Lent and Jesus to my most avid environmentalist friends and colleagues and students who are antagonistic to the church.
  12. We sleep better, deeper.

This fast is only a rail, a prop, a visual aid.  But it provides a healing limitation that turns our hearts towards the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who in love are winning, wooing, crushing, and making us new.

We are not prepared to live this way for the other 319 days of the year, but you know Easter is coming by the way our children are preparing by counting candles and discussing creative ways to make their own music to replace KMFA.  Oh, yes, Easter is coming!

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A Very Valentine-y Thankful Tuesday

It’s Valentines Day! If you are reading this in the morning, I am probably in my smiliest morning mood, the one I reserve only for special days. August and I will be popping open the can of cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Then we’ll move quick from them into a mid-morning mixing and baking of “pink velvet” cupcakes (box-mix courtesy of World Market). Ahhh, the sugar intake of Valentines Day!

I love Valentines Day for its heartfelt kid-ness. I love handmade valentines. I love candy and cookies. I love little children and stickers and the sweetness of making a Valentine for someone because they’re your friend. I also think that once Valentines Day becomes about kissy kissy relationships circa 7th grade, it loses all its earnestness. Though I think there are plenty of other days to celebrate your significant other, I’m not a total Valentine grump. I did buy my husband a present. It’s just that his present happens to be a $10 variety pack of old fashioned root beers (which I will share with him the next time we eat a burger…) And, we will celebrate tonight. He will cook me my favorite pasta…the one he used to make me when we were dating and he hardly knew how to make anything else. We’ll watch Breaking Dawn because I haven’t seen it yet and because his watching it with me is the greatest romantic gesture he could possibly make. But, mostly, today the boys and I will celebrate Love with lots of sugar and construction paper, just as St. Valentine always intended his day to be celebrated.

In that spirit, I have a full list of Thankfuls for today. This past week was emotional and good and hard and rich. I’m grateful for…

  • My grandfather’s miraculous recovery from his broken hip last week, his being released from the hospital into rehab. A conversation with Meemaw on the phone and being reminded of her deep love for him, getting to see a bit more of her heart and her commitment to him.
  • Being able to give my 90-year-old grandma (the other one!) some much needed snuggle time with Brooksie this past weekend. (We drove to Dallas Friday afternoon and came back late Saturday night for a day-long visit.)
  • My sister-in-law and my mother were almost in a terrible, terrible car accident  this past weekend. It’s a miracle that they weren’t hurt. It’s a miracle that, despite my sister-in-law’s car skidding across several lanes of traffic and refusing to start (in the middle of two interstate lanes), they were safe and surrounded on all sides by the cushion of grace. In a week that was overwhelming for my family in several ways, it’s a gift to have such a tangible reminder of God’s good care.
  • Brunching (can that be a verb? a super snobby verb?) with a table full of friends from college on Saturday while I was in Dallas. I love how after all these years of wishing I could be close enough to actually see my Texas friends, I am. It’s such a joy.
  • Speaking of Texas, look at this baby and the Texas flag in my husband’s office. Had you shown me this picture a year ago, I would never have believed it was possible.
  • Being stuck in traffic with Melissa, one of my college roomies, for an hour and a half and getting way more time than I planned for to talk to her alone.
  • Jesus’ promise that his yoke is easy and his burden is light, not only for ourselves but for the people we love who suffer physically or emotionally. Easy and light. There is so much rest in “easy and light,” isn’t there?
  • Brooksie’s new favorite word, ball. “Bah bah bah bah bah,” he sings while he crawls around in search of one.
  • Sunday morning pancakes
  • August’s little book about St. Valentine, who risked his life to perform weddings when marriage was forbidden by Claudius the Cruel. Did you know that?
  • Chuck E. Cheese with friends Sunday night.
  • Finding August asleep in his room with a Thomas the Tank Engine Valentine book on his face
  • My friend Trisha’s handmade Valentine she gave me yesterday (I put it on my fridge)
  • Talking about poetry at Writing Group Monday night
  • My friend Andrea’s new book will be released this week! (More to come…)
  • And, of course, a warm cat in my lap while I type

It’s a very Valentine-y Thankful Tuesday. List your thankfuls, people!

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