I want to remember it. Every time I hold your hand.
Earlier this month, my family visited some acquaintances who own a small home and cottage in the Hamptons. They had invited us to stay in their cottage, and we accepted. After a slightly harrowing drive out of Manhattan, we arrived late morning on a Tuesday, spent some time relaxing on the property listening to the sound of lazy lawn mowers and chirping birds, and then walked the 400 yards to the “bay beach” at the end of their block.
As per usual, I carried the family backpack and had a little hand in each of my own. Jacob scampered about, holding my hand for a few yards and then running up to his dad and then back again. Hannah Grace, as per usual, clung tight, my fiercely independent girl who always likes to have a hand to hold (as long as she can choose to hold it). Our host caught up with us and fell into step with our slow pace. Hannah Grace immediately requested her hand as well: “I hold your hand?”
Anne seemed both pleased and surprised. “Of course!” she exclaimed, and eagerly shifted her bag to the other arm. “It’s so nice to have someone who wants to hold my hand,” she remarked casually. Continue reading
This summer, my kids participated in our church’s “Vacation Bible School” program (aka, VBS). Every day for a week, we left the house early to trek down to the church’s building, where the kids attended the opening and closing assemblies and rotated through crafts, music, Bible, snack, and movement classes each day. I mostly volunteered in the preschool Bible class, performing various roles in Bible skits for over 100 little ones. The whole week was exhausting for me.
Despite being surrounded by Bible verses, memory points, smiling people with what seemed like boundless amounts of energy, and energizing pop songs about God’s love and forgiveness, I felt spent, exhausted, and alone. The transition back to New York City after over three weeks away was a difficult one, and I realized in hindsight that I had not prepared myself or the family well for the adjustment. (I actually made lists of things to do differently next time. I love lists.) And to make things more difficult, it was a hot week in New York, my husband was working out of town, and I was 7-something months pregnant. And my kids weren’t sleeping.
Each day I’d show up, feeling beaten, and run into dozens of people I knew, some fairly well, most acquaintances I hadn’t seen in a year – and everyone was all smiles and “it’s great to see you!” and “how wonderful that you’re expecting!” and hugs. I didn’t feel like smiling, and I didn’t feel like it was great to see anyone, and I didn’t feel like it was wonderful to be expecting. It all felt like hard work. Continue reading
In the Aftermath,
the water is still and the mist hangs heavy in the air,
a memory of earlier rain.
On the periphery, the trees are motionless.
Lake and sky are gray:
a monochrome world.
Two ducks paddle slowly across the water.
I take it all in: the water, the sky, the ducks, the trees –
the heaviness of the air, the gray stillness of the world –
but feel nothing.
Just the wet of the tears as they slip down my cheeks.
They come slowly, at first, but soon are a silent downpour.
Grief weighs heavy on my heart.
I grew up in a home that valued work. My sister and I learned not to waste time, and that working hard was one of the most important things we could do. Following the examples of my hard-working parents, I believed I could achieve anything—as long as I worked hard enough.
When my son was born, I was not ready to return to my previous job after just three months off. So I took a new job: motherhood.
I had worked hard building my career as a professional musician and arts administrator. Yet I believed spending time with my son during his most formative years was important—even if it meant leaving a job I loved and had worked hard to achieve. I now wanted to work hard to train up my child in the way he should go.
However, I often found myself longing for a different life. I grew jealous of friends and colleagues as they achieved professional success, some even having children of their own along the way. The past three-and-a-half years have been a struggle to find my place—as a mom, as a freelance writer and musician, as a Christian, as a driven and hard-working woman.
I’m delighted to be writing again over at the fabulous website Off the Page this month. Won’t you join me there to read the rest?
My baby Hannah Grace is two years old. And the second verse of Amazing Grace just keeps playing on repeat in my head.
T’was grace that taught
My heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Hannah Grace, each phrase is true. Your presence in my life has taught my heart to fear. The moment I first learned you were on your way, I was terrified. I didn’t think I could handle having another baby so soon after your brother. Your earliest existence made obvious to me that my control over my life was just smoke and mirrors. I had a perfect plan, and this wasn’t it. I was not in control, and I was scared. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it, wouldn’t be able to love you well, wouldn’t be able to love your brother well, wouldn’t be able to take care of our home and all my responsibilities. I was scared to be a mom of “two under two.”
But two years ago, you began to prove me wrong. After nearly 42 weeks of pregnancy, you made me a mom of two under two. You showed me that I could do this thing that I had feared – if I trusted God and relied on Him for everything that I lacked. This life that He’s given me with you hasn’t been easy, but each day, He relieves my fears by another degree. And now, I understand that this began before I even met you. Continue reading
Such a pretty girl. We were sitting on the couch when he said it, tucking a few stray strands of hair behind my ear. It was so tender, so loving. So genuine.
I thought of the many times I had said those same words to my daughter, hoping that if I said it enough, she’d grow up believing it. That if she heard it enough, it would become true for her.
Such a pretty girl, I say, when washing her hair, getting her dressed, brushing her teeth, playing peek-a-boo. Pretty bow for a pretty girl, I say, trying to entice her into letting me clip a cloth-covered barrette into her finally-starting-to-come-in hair. Look at the pretty dress for my pretty girl! I exclaim, when I pull out a sweet jumper from a new bag of hand-me-downs.
I want my daughter to grow up knowing deep in her bones that she is beautiful. I don’t want her ever to doubt it.
I also want her to know why she is beautiful. Continue reading
It’s easy to think of “work” in the ways our society does – as something only related to money, status, stability. But God-given work is bigger.
Sorry for the radio silence around here. Head over to Redeemer Presbyterian’s Center for Faith and Work blog for a short post I wrote recently on the frustrations of God-given work. . .
My primary work is as a mother. I have several advanced degrees and I spend hours sitting on the floor, wiping runny noses, or standing in the kitchen, washing dishes. Many days, it seems like everything that I do backfires. It is easy to feel like what I’m doing is a waste of my time and education. I know that raising kids is about delayed gratification – after all, “your works will praise you at the gates” – but I could use a little more affirmation along the way. The work of being a full-time mom is hard, grueling work.
It’s not unusual for work to feel this way.
Read the rest here!
There are really no words for today, or for yesterday, when my sweet friend lost her child, seven months after he was born. It feels useless and almost unnecessary, unimportant, to share the heaviness of the grief.
Almost harder for me, as the mother of two healthy children, has been the weight of responsibility.
I heard the news while sitting between my two children at home, at dinner. Our home is not a quiet one, and this is especially true at mealtimes (and bathtimes). The children were screaming in delight at each other, alternating between “Rooooaaaarrrr!” and “Noooooo!!!” enjoying the sounds of their voices volleying back and forth, at escalating decibel levels.
I sat, crying hot and silent tears, as they screamed, oblivious. Amidst the sadness and anger, I felt a heavy responsibility. Continue reading
This is a sign that I’ve seen probably hundreds of times along the many shared walkways and bike paths in New York City. Recently, I noticed it in a new way.
Go Slow, Respect Others.
It was like God speaking right into my life. That morning, I’d been frustrated with my son. He was supposed to be getting dressed for school and instead of putting on his pants, he stripped off all of his clothes and proceeded to run around the room shouting, “Naked dance! Naked dance!” (He’s three-and-a-half, after all.) Then he kept getting distracted by one thing or another and it felt like this simple task of getting dressed was taking for-ever. And I, of course, wanted to get out the door.
Then there’s my daughter. She’s at that “do-it-myself” stage. This includes walking instead of riding in the stroller. We live on a steep hill. She wants to walk up the hill. On a recent morning, the whole family left at the same time. I walked more quickly up the hill with my son, and at the top we turned around to check on the progress of Sister. She was only a few yards behind, and the grin on her face was bright enough to see for a mile. I’m almost there! She beamed. I’m a big girl now, like Brother!
This sign along the river isn’t just for bikers. This sign is for me. Continue reading
I discovered something this week. While editing past blog posts for my writing portfolio, I learned something about God’s love. I discovered that, in a strange and beautiful way, examining my love for my daughter has shown me why I can trust God. [A different version of this post first appeared in 2015.]
When I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter, I cried. Out of fear. Out of disbelief. I was still nursing my firstborn, and he was still a baby. I did not feel ready for a second.
But along she came, fast and furious – if also two weeks late. I nursed and burped her, changed and rocked her, bathed and swaddled her. Over and over. I gently washed her sensitive skin and I protected her from the sun and her big-but-still-little brother. In those first weeks and months, I loved her in the very best way that I could – by doing.
Because I felt nothing. Continue reading