pause.

Eliza has fallen asleep during our bedtime routine a few times in the last month. We sing so many songs every night after reading, whatever amount gets her to an acceptably relaxed state so I can leave the room and she won’t get up again, or at least only get up once. I watch her like a hawk, in the darkness, gauging her sleepiness so I can pop her into her bed at the perfect moment, before she gets a second wind or starts talking again. The few times she’s fallen asleep it’s been very sudden, from relaxed to snoring in an instant around the eighth or tenth song, and it catches me by surprise. I’ve been resisting the urge to dump her unceremoniously in her bed and run like hell, exuberant that the day is over and I’m free for an hour or two before I have to go to bed. Because while that’s how I may feel in the moment, in the bigger picture I don’t get these moments very often anymore with her and I want to savor them when they unexpectedly happen.

So I watch her sleep, see the contours of her face relax back into babyhood in slumber, that little face at once so familiar to me and so strange. I’ve known her her whole life, I think, and yet here she is, almost four, and this little person, so opinionated and curious and strong and vulnerable and I don’t know how it happened. I mean, I do know. We had this beautiful baby girl and then when she was still a baby we had another baby and then another. And here we are. I stare at her face, the one I remember staring at for hours in the middle of the night when she was first born, enamored and in awe of this tiny human we made, that didn’t exist at all before but was just…here now, here to stay. Here in the darkness, with no snack request forthcoming or demand for tv or question about the intricacies of  the universe or the whys of a conversation we’ve had, I swear, a million times before this, here in this silent pause, I can feel that same sense of wonder. Who are you, I wonder, and what are you going to be like? Because as much as I think I know her, she can still surprise me. As with anyone, I can only know her so much. This little person, that Matthew and I made, she just came out of nowhere and here she is, asleep next to me–in all her familiarity and mystery.

I kiss her sweet little baby soft cheek and gather her long big girl limbs up in my arms, awkwardly transitioning her into her bed. One last kiss on the head, and then I run like hell because soaking up the moments is great and everything, but I really do only have a few hours of freedom before I need to go to bed too, and a glass of wine is calling my name.

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the itch you can’t scratch.

How to write: sit at desk. Look pained, as if you have a spastic colon. Feel deep self pity, & rage. Resent everyone. Then, bitterly, begin.

-Anne Lamott, via Twitter, succinctly captures my own experience in a few words, just as she does for so many, so often.

 

I’ve been writing a lot again, of my own volition instead of just for work. It’s been wonderfully  nostalgic to feel that compulsion to write, the need to create something. I’ve played my guitar nearly every day, and written something every week for over a month. It’s been amazing, and I’m really excited to be in this place, but…it’s also been kind of awful. I don’t have much free time during the day, so any time I’m writing and playing, it’s at the expense of something else. My house vacillates between being cluttered and being downright in shambles every few days, the laundry is piled up, not to mention the dishes, and some days the kids watch way more tv than I think is probably best. I write in five minute bursts, leaving my guitar on the kitchen table to go grab snacks for the kids, or to quell some minor disaster in the making (like beer bottle bowling–totally happened the other day. I have a genius for a three year old daughter). These things are minor hiccups, looked on with as much affection as annoyance even now and, I suspect, even more in the future. The worst part is the state of my emotions as I attempt to reimmerse myself into the habit of writing. It’s not been graceful immersion, more like a slipped-on-a-banana-peel-all-limbs-flailing-descent into the depths of artistic expression.

I’m definitely in the angst-ridden, self-critical stage during which I consider everything I play or write and feel deep, deep loathing. It is not fun. In my experience, though, the more disgust I feel when I begin, the greater the payoff when I make it through to the other side. Whether I gain some ability, or end up with a song I love, I think something great is going to come out of this.

It’s been radio silent over here for a little while, and that’s due to an overabundance of thoughts rather than a lack of them. I hope to begin writing here again, too. Soon.

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Awake.

I wrote this song for Advent this past year. It is probably the most theologically dense song I’ve ever written, and it was a challenge to keep up with the weighty concepts I was attempting to communicate. I had to make sure I was using the right words to convey the idea I wanted, but also to make sure that what I was saying was worded in a way that didn’t miscommunicate the theology, as well as making sure it all sounded good aesthetically. Tricky!

Of course, with all the heady theology of the song, it was also important to me that it be engaging on an emotional level. I didn’t want this to be simply a recitation of theological tenets, but a call to the heart of the believer. I was reading through the prophecies of Isaiah in preparation for writing this song, and felt that my job for this song was to be the one “who brings good news, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.'”  That chapter (Isaiah 52) begins with summons to God’s people, one which I included, only slightly reworded, as the bridge for this song.

Awake, awake,
put on your strength, O Zion;
put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city;

Shake yourself from the dust and arise;
be seated, O Jerusalem;
loose the bonds from your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion.

I’ve never had quite as specific a purpose as I felt laid on my heart for this song. It’s anomaly for me in many ways, but my prayer was (and is) that it would stir in people’s  hearts, including my own, a reawakened fervor as they heard sung over them the miraculous truths of all God did for us in the incarnation.

Awake.

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all things new.

I always want those new mercies every morning to mean that I actually feel new every morning. I want a wiped clean slate, I want a clear head. But most mornings, since I’ve been a mom (otherwise known as the majority of my adult life), I’ve awakened feeling woefully unprepared for the day. Yesterday’s baggage follows me into the new day, be it lost tempers and harsh words, or sluggishness and a pile of dishes. I can’t just forget what happened yesterday.

The beautiful thing is that I don’t need to forget all those things to have a fresh start. Today is new.

Having these three sweet and precious, raggedy and rough-around-the-edges souls in my care has given me need to wake up each morning and grab onto the new mercy like never before. I don’t have time to waste wallowing in or mourning past failures. I don’t have time to wait for the perfect place to start. I don’t have time to wait until I’m sure I can succeed at the tasks I’ve set for myself, or til I know I can do things just the way I want. I just have to wake up, take a deep breath, and fall hard on mercies that have been new every morning since creation and will be long after I’m gone.

I’m discovering just how vast the mercy of God is, in the way that he meets me in that spot. This year I’m choosing to be present, even in the mess and struggle, and in the process I’m discovering the beauty that exists in the life I have. I don’t have to fix all the things or wait for more ideal circumstances. It’ll be wonderful when I get to sleep all night again, and I’m taking steps to make sure that happens sooner than later, but in the meantime, even though I woke up every hour last night, I still get to choose to accept the newness of this day. I still get to choose to engage my kids instead of walking through the day in a haze. And I get to be constantly surprised at how my decision to fall on the grace and mercy of God, which frees me to step into the limitations of my days, uncovers so much joy and hope. That simple decision to get up and face each day like it’s a new start is growing and changing me, and I can feel it.

I may be tired, I may be stretched thin and emotionally on edge, but I am being made new.

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the question.

I find it the hardest to believe God loves me when it’s the middle of the night and my baby isn’t sleeping well. Isn’t that silly? There are much harder things about my life than sleeplessness, but during the day I can convince myself that it’s all ok. Like, I’m going to work harder, we’ll all get our act together and everything will be fine. We can take care of ourselves. But in the middle of the night, when the baby’s up for like the tenth time, and I’ve just been praying and praying that she’ll sleep and she’s not, in my exhaustion I can’t cover for myself anymore. The real state of my heart rises up in the questions I can no longer quell: “God, don’t you love me? Why don’t you do something? Do you really care?”

A friend of mine told me recently that instead of only asking God to do things for her now, she asks him to be with her. That really struck me, because that actually deals with the very root of the question. The circumstances change, but what I really need is for God to be with me. Only then am I safe, only there am I loved, truly and perfectly. I’ve always loved the part of the Christmas story where it says that the child’s name will be Immanuel, God with us. Isn’t that what our hearts are constantly crying out for? “God, where are you in all this?” But in the incarnation, God left everything, all the riches of heaven, all the glory of his status. God made himself man to be with us.

I still want God to do his magical thing and make my baby sleep without me having to put forth any effort. I still want to feel safe and in control and never have any fears about the future. I want my friend’s cancer to go away. I want my other friend’s depression and anxiety to be less debilitating. I want all the little kids to be safe from the people that want to hurt them. I want wars to cease. I want things on earth to be as they are in heaven. I still ask God to do things and get confused and sad when they don’t happen.

I don’t know the answer to the question of why God does what he does, when he does. But the incarnation gives me a clear answer to the deep question of my heart, the “where are you, God? Don’t you love me?” I long to have that answer made real in my heart.

God is with us. God is with us. God is with us.

 

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