Wednesday, November 7, 2012

To Avery

A few weeks old
I have learned so much in the past two years since I became Mommy. Most of all, I learned what it is to hope for something truly great for someone else. Here is a letter that I wrote to my little one, for whom I hope so much:
My dear baby Avery,
You turned two last week. We went to the zoo, you rode a zebra on the carousel, and you had no idea it was your birthday. But I did. You see, two years ago we brought you home from the hospital. You were impossibly tiny, and I felt terrified because I’ve never known someone to need so much from me. Then, I watched a miracle grow. You’re no longer a baby, but a little girl with a will and a soul. You have eyes that some notice just for the intensity of color, but I love them for the intensity beyond the blue. There is so much I want for you, so much I hope for you—I cannot tell you now in a way that you’ll fully understand, but I can record it here in the hopes that you read this someday and are inspired. You see, I cannot control you—you are only mine for a little while, and even now you are not fully mine. I am simply here to steward you, to shepherd you, to pray especially for you. So, here are the things I pray:
Almost one
First, I pray that you fall in love with Jesus. I do not simply want you to become a moral person—I want you to live radically for a God who will give you purpose. I pray that through your life people see a radiant, powerful God—but first, you must see this God for yourself. We take you to church and we read your story Bible, but we cannot give you faith. So, I leave it up to my radiant, powerful God to show you Himself in His full glory and imbibe you with strength and joy and compassion.

I pray that you think. As we read in Dr. Seuss, “Think left and think right and think low and think high!” And, I urge you—think deeply, wrestle with difficult ideas, question everything. Be a lifelong learner. Read. Read for pleasure, read to enter new worlds. Most of all, read to evaluate new thoughts. Then, test those thoughts against what you believe. Learn what you believe and why you believe it, and have the courage and maturity to share those thoughts with others.
Avery's 2nd birthday!
I pray you are compassionate. Compassion moves deeper than niceness—nice flashes in your smile; compassion blazes in your eyes. Nice asks how someone is doing; compassion listens to the answer. So, my hope is that you see people as they are and that you care.

I pray that you fail occasionally—and then learn and grow. Perhaps this sounds harsh, but from my failures I have grown the most. (Ask me someday—I’ll tell you about them.) And, as much as I would like to pass you my experiential wisdom, I can only advise you. Reality is: sometimes you will listen; sometimes you won’t. Failure is inevitable, so I guess this prayer is really for me—I pray I don’t get in your way. I pray that God will give me the resolution not to always rescue you, never to say “I told you so,” but be there to help dust you off.

Regardless of who you become, I hope you know that I love you. Also, that I like you. You are funny—especially when you don’t mean to be. You are determined. You like people. You like the letter W. You are fascinated by the lizards that live in our backyard. I look forward to watching all these qualities mature in you (except, perhaps, the liking of lizards…). For now, I pray that I cherish you— that I never forget your little head on my shoulder, kissing your spongy little cheeks, your teeny feet in socks, your tiny voice saying, “Mommy, up.” Happiest of birthdays, sweet one.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Living Well

I sat outside the other night. (Rare for a mom in Houston-- namely because of the aforementioned terms "mom" and "Houston.") Lee had taken Avery to the bath-- I was supposed to clear the dishes and begin cleaning up, but instead I sat, listened to a few more songs on the playlist, and looked up.

I hardly ever look up in Houston. (Mostly because of light pollution-- I couldn't really see the stars, so I watched blinking airplanes & thought about the stars instead.) But, the other night, I looked up and remembered that I am small.

I am a small person with small influence-- in the grand scheme of the universe (airplanes and all), I am a speck; in the grand scheme of history, I am a speck. But, I want to live a life of purpose.

My grandmother just celebrated her 80th birthday-- let's say I make it to that age, and I have a great, wild birthday blow-out with children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What do I want? I want to be living a full life; I want to be learning and teaching and laughing and writing and traveling. Until the day I meet my maker, I long to live as a woman of influence, of purpose. But, as a speck, how do I truly live well?

As David penned Psalm 8, I imagine he, too, sat outside and looked up. He writes:
"When I observe Your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You set in place,
what is man that You remember him,
the son of man that You look after him?"

I don't have all the answers, but here's what I know-- I am most fulfilled when I am working for something bigger than myself. And, as I look up and think about the cosmic vastness that my God holds in the palm of His hand, my perspective shifts. No longer can I focus inward.

David continues:
"You made him little less than angels
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
You put everything under his feet."

The lovely truth is this: my God is glory itself, yet he gives me a role to play in His story. For now, I am mommy to a sticky, determined, laughing little girl. The world dismisses me, tells me I do nothing meaningful. But, my King tells me I am crowned with glory and honor regardless of whether I choose to work at home or outside of it.

At the end of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Levin (one of my favorite characters in all of literature) also looks up. Levin goes out and listens "not so much to his thoughts... as to the state of his soul." To make several chapters short, he comes to this conclusion: "live for God, for the soul."

There are many things to live for, to work towards. But, when I listen to the state of my soul, I realize that nothing satisfies like enjoying my God and working for His kingdom.

And so, I think that this what I must do: Look up. Live for God, for the soul.

Friday, September 7, 2012


It's strange-- tragedy is usually the best of instructors. I guess this is why Hamlet is so much more interesting to study than Much Ado About Nothing. And why every narrative told in the history of the world sends its hero or heroine through some dark period.

A year or so ago, I started to pray earnestly for wisdom. I believe fiercely in a God who answers prayer, and I take very literally the words of Solomon in Proverbs 4: "The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding." So, I'm not sure why I was so blindsided by my miscarriage-- though, I guess like the camper who comes prepared with a flashlight cannot truly understand the frightening nature of the dark, one cannot truly experience the depth of tragedy if one is prepared for it.

So, about four months ago, I lost a baby. You can call it a fetus if you'd like, an embryo even, but to me-- it was a life. I had started to think of names, to envision how this new little one would fit into our world. I even bought a Big Sister t-shirt for Avery. (It came in the mail four days after the miscarriage.) And then. And then. And then. I will spare you all the gruesome details-- suffice it to say that, despite my having zero risk factors and already having had one perfectly average pregnancy, it turned out that my little baby, my little life, was growing where it could not possibly thrive.

At the time, I was reading Genesis and an old story struck me anew-- the story of Jacob as he wrestles with God. (Genesis 32:24-32) The story begins with Jacob being left alone. He began with 15 other people, and that night as he stands on the threshhold of the Promised Land, he is alone. In the dark. While I personally was surrounded by plenty of loving, supportive people, I felt like Jacob. Alone. And simply because, as the only person who could physically feel the life inside of me die, no one else could fully share my grief. And, just as Jacob had to face God alone, I think sometimes we must individually deal with God so as to be like Job when he says, "My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You" (Job 42:5).

Now, I find verses 30-31 especially beautiful: "Jacob then named the place Peniel, 'For,' he said, 'I have seen God face to face, and I have been delivered.' The sun shone on him as he passed by Peniel-- limping on his hip."

The sun is beginning to rise, and while I still limp, I have seen my living God work. C.S. Lewis says, "But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” When I should have been eaten alive with grief, I felt supernatural peace. When I felt alone, God used others to encourage and fortify me. As I wrestled with God over the past few months, He has spoken to my soul. I know He IS.

"But You, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the One
who lifts up my head.
I cry aloud to the LORD,
and He answers me
from His holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again because the LORD sustains me."
Psalm 3:3-5

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Beginning

Blogs should really only be written by interesting people. Or funny people. Or basically anyone who is so busy doing awesome/ noble things that he or she doesn't have time to sit around and compose said interesting/ witty/ world-changing blog.

However, like most bloggers out there, I have plenty of time to chronicle my embarrassingly typical existence. So I will. Perhaps writing about my life and thoughts is simply to satisfy my egomaniacal side. (This is the same side of me that posts hip, filtered pictures to Instagram in hopes of receiving as many likes or comments as possible and then posts the same hip, filtered picture to Facebook in order to collect even more e-praise.) Or, perhaps my motives are true and I write simply because I enjoy writing, regardless of the fact that my audience probably consists solely of my parents.

As a former teacher, I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should be a lifelong learner-- even if one spends most days changing dirty diapers, cutting grapes in half, and wiping cracker residue off of her t-shirt in order to appear presentable to the check-out person at H-E-B. So, here you have it: these are the things I learn.