The Memory Weaver

It seems appropriate that I would finish reading another Jane KirkPatrick title on my birthday. Kirkpatrick is skilled in historical fiction, primarily in the history of the settling of the Pacific Northwest and the convergence of the white settlers with the Native American tribes in those states. The Memory Weaver is no exception.

Eliza Spalding was a child survivor of the massacre at the Whitman mission in Oregon. She and many others were taken hostage and held for 39 days. As the sole interpreter between the hostages, Indians and negotiators she was put into many impossible situations that scarred her memories and made living her future life painful. Yet as life unfolded she was able to make peace with her past, travel old roads and create new memories.

Kirkpatrick has the wonderful ability to make history relevant to the present and to enable the reader to relate to the figures of the past. While I am not a pioneer, will never cross The Dalles, travel on horseback across state lines or build a log cabin with my own hands, my heart beats with the same desires as the protagonist, Eliza Spalding. She reflected,

These moments when I did not try to “make” my husband do this or that, didn’t interfere with my children learning in their ways different from my own, were kindling for the warming fires I built each day.

In that quote, I felt the kindred in our spirits. The desire to partner in our lives with the ones journeying the closest on our paths. In all the twists and turns, tragedy and victory of the years she had traveled, this heroine had learned the simplest, but most important of lessons: to support her family in becoming who they were meant to be and not to force them to be who she thought they needed to be.

A few pages later, she mused:

Maybe each of us needs to feel a little extraordinary, to believe we’ve used well the talents we were given to live meaningful lives.

Yes! I thought. Exactly! We humans crave the extraordinary, wanting so much to know that there is something about us that makes us more than just one among billions. We want to know that we have made a mark on history, even in the smallest way. Finally she concludes:

I am the mother raising children to be resilient, trustworthy, able to keep going when they want to quit, kind and generous. What greater meaning can one life have?

I read the author’s notes about her research and in them she revealed how much information she had gotten from the descendants of Eliza Spalding. I think we take for granted the impact of one life upon generations and subsequently, the world. As I savor the second half of my birthday, I realize that I have gotten swept up in the daily drudgery of raising small children. I have allowed the fatigue, the daunting mountains of laundry and dirty dishes, the taunting tumbleweeds of pet hair and the Groundhog Day issues of whining and squabbling and toddler food tossing to make me feel pointless.

But I’m not pointless. In the midst of all that mess, lies the patient spirit, the consistent instruction, and the determined love that can be cultivated in my heart and passed on to future generations. Just as Eliza Spalding didn’t see it all clearly until she was in her twilight years, I will be a work in progress until then too. But it’s encouraging to know that as long as I keep journeying, I’ll eventually reach my destination too. And oh the memories I’ll be able to weave together when I get there.

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The Tired Mama

If there’s a tired mama in your circle of acquaintances, be gentle with her.

It’s very possible she considers two consecutive hours of sleep a decent night’s rest.

She may get her words mixed up or lose her train of thought in the middle of a sentence.

She might have 80 text messages to answer, forget to check her voicemails, and rarely return a phone call.

Her children might eat boxed mac and cheese two lunches in a row and frozen pizza two dinners in a row.

It’s possible you don’t agree with how she disciplines: too loud one day and too lenient the next.

Likely she will cry at the drop of a hat or at the fifth spill in a row.

There’s a chance she compares herself to all the women she thinks aren’t tired and sees how they do it all: perfect self-care routine, immaculate houses, balanced personal and spiritual life…and…well…everything she just isn’t able to do right now.

I’m certain she wonders about how God views her: does He see a harried, frazzled mess or does He see a daughter trying to do her best?

Some might say she’s too easily overwhelmed or she’s bitten off more than she can chew. But she probably is the way she is because she is simply a tired mama.

When days roll into nights that roll into days again and there’s no pause or break or chance to breathe, a mama gets tired. I really don’t think it means she doesn’t love what she does or adore who she’s all about every single day. It probably just means she’s genuinely tired- physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Don’t ask her lots of questions or try to solve her problems. Don’t tell her what she needs to do to get rest. Try to not be miffed if her answers are brief.

Instead, listen. Acknowledge her exhaustion. Assure her you’re there if she needs anything. Surprise her. Let her know that it will all work out and one day she will sleep again. Speak kindly. Go gently with her.

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An Open Letter To My Sons

Dear Sons,

In the midst of keeping you alive each day, it’s easy for me to forget that one day you will be men. Right now my days are filled with teaching you your letters and numbers, emphasizing basic hygiene and the importance of wearing clothes, and keeping you from playing with sharp and pointed objects to which you all gravitate. There are days when I have to laugh or I most certainly would cry at your destructive, albeit completely boyish antics: climbing on anything above ground, taking things apart, dumping things out, bringing dirt wherever you can, and being LOUD. Loud seems to be the only volume you know.

Yet I see clearly that being a mom of sons is a high calling and even greater blessing. I see your need to test boundaries and climb to great heights. This is how you learn your strength and grow stronger; this is how you gain the courage to lead and the confidence to go where no man has gone before. You have an innate desire to fight and protect and do what is difficult. You want to know how things work and why they work that way. Home is the training ground for becoming the men God designed you to be. I pray for the wisdom to let you test those limits and make those discoveries without being lawless and savage in the process. I pray for the patience to accept the accidents and messes and broken things that just come with the territory.

My sons, I am all too aware of the dangers awaiting you in the great, wide world you are so eager to conquer. But of all the dangers out there, I most want to prepare you for those who will seek to mock your integrity, deride your godliness and despise your manhood. Our world has become hostile to true men: those who seek to fulfill their God-ordained roles as provider, protector and leader. They will undermine your leadership, defile your reputation and urge you to compromise your moral convictions. They are threatened by who you are and what you represent; that is, your stature points to God and is a reminder that He is the ultimate authority.

How does a mother prepare her sons for such a toxic world? Some would say I should raise you to be docile, ready to say and do whatever society demands. Others would say I should tame you and make you shoulder-shruggers in the face of moral compromise. Some would recommend I frown on your fighting spirit and others would advise me to temper your explorations. All of these recommendations are designed to make you fit in rather than stand out; to condition you to be followers instead of leaders. But that is not what God is calling me to do.

His Word admonishes me to raise you to be bold, to be brave, to speak, to stand up, to bow the knee to no one but God, to pursue justice, to love mercy, to desire clean hands and a pure heart. A man who holds these standards will not be loved by the world, may in fact be hated and harassed, but he will be in favor with God. You, my sons, are not seeking to love the world, but to reach the world with Christ’s love. It will take strength to be the men God has designed you to be.

Tonight I heard one of you singing bedtime songs to your baby brother. And yesterday I saw one of you bowing your head, squeezing your eyes as tightly closed as they could go and your busy little hands were folded and still. You are always presenting me with flowers, impressing me with your muscles, and quick to show concern when you can tell I’m not feeling well. In these moments I see the perfect blending of tenderness and strength, energy and restraint, compassion and determination.

Sons, this world does not deserve you but God has placed you here for such a time as this. My mother’s heart will ache when you are beaten down; my mother bear will roar when you encounter injustice; but my faith in God will not waver nor my prayers diminish as you rise up and keep going.

I respect each one of you as you already endeavor to be the best men your little boy hearts can be,

Mama

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Observations of a mom

I was looking through home videos with our youngest daughter and was struck with how much of our way of life has changed in such a brief amount of time. Shortly after that the children and I were reading Curious George together; the inquisitive little monkey was on his way to his town’s centennial celebration. I realized that our children may never experience a gathering of citizens mutually celebrating together. I suddenly realized that in the space of less than 12 months the fabric of our nation has changed.

Mardi Gras, not something I celebrate but I do recognize it as an iconic event, will not occur this year. We have accepted lonely Thanksgivings, cancelled Christmases, empty concert halls, abandoned elderly, depressed teenagers, anxious children, ruined small businesses, fearful citizens, and isolated neighbors as our new normal. It’s a refreshing change to see someone’s full face or to hug a friend without hesitation. Shaking hands, once considered proper social etiquette is frowned upon, as is friends gathering together in a home.

What saddens me about these changes is that our nation’s children won’t remember anything else. We will have to tell them about Fourth of July celebrations and Christmas concerts and county fairs. They won’t know how to interact with people in close proximity to them and will assume that virtual is how everything is done. They won’t know about play groups or going with a big church group to get ice cream together or field trips with friends to the museum. Large families will be isolated from seeing grandparents and family reunions will be a thing of the past.

I got together with some other moms today and it was SO GOOD and SO NEEDED for all of us. For a little while we could forget about the chaos and division and confusion in our land and just be moms sharing about life. As I headed home I thought, “THIS is what we need more of. We need to get back to community and discussion. We need to get back to living.”

I don’t have the answers. I’m simply a mom processing the rapid flow of events over the past year. I see division, despair, and resignation all around me. I see what made America unique: the traditions, the camaraderie, the icons, becoming history. I see our youngest generation growing up isolated, fearful and disconnected. Have we really thought this through? Are we really going about this the right way? I miss our way of life; I miss liberty.

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What Makes A Baby…A Baby?

There is something so special about a baby; the face of just about every adult who encounters a baby softens a little. Babies can get us to do the silliest things: our voices go higher. We repeat the same sound or antic over and over and over again. We forget the topic of conversation as we watch those little eyes following us.

But what is it about a baby that has this planet-wide effect? Is it the wonder of knowing their bodies have all the organs and systems working and in place that we have, just in miniature: their hearts are beating; their intestines produce waste (very routinely); their livers produce bile; their thyroid glands release hormones? Is it their active little faces practicing our expressions: frowning, smiling, grimacing, puckering? Is it their busy arms and legs kicking and reaching or their tiny hands and feet grabbing, curling and stretching?

I don’t quite know what it is about a baby that is mesmerizing, intoxicating and wonderful. I do know that I’ll do anything to get one more smile from him. Nothing hurts worse than knowing he is hurting. There’s no cozier place than snuggling up with that sleeping baby in my arms. Don’t we all share that sentiment?

Today I learned of a 14-week old baby who was killed. He had everything I just described above: an active face; limbs constantly wriggling; a fully intact, fully functioning body- just in miniature. He felt every torturous moment of his dismemberment because his nervous system was fully developed, and he fought desperately to move away from the instruments of his murder as adrenaline coursed through his tiny body.

Fellow citizens, we are members of a society that condones, even justifies murder. We have redefined it as choice; accepted it as healthcare; lauded it as empowerment; and profited from it for research. But desensitizing our collective conscience only serves to unravel the moral fabric of our society. We have qualified the value of a human life and have agreed that human rights are not endowed and are no longer inalienable. The ripping away of what was given to us by the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God has begun at the beginning of life and it will not stop until there is nothing left to safeguard.

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Are We Sitting On Our Hands?

I recently learned of a woman without a home. A close friend of mine met her and listened to her story. It’s a heart-wrenching one; almost more so because all of the avenues for assistance are closed to her. Why? Because she has too much money in savings. You see, unfortunate circumstances have placed her in her current situation in spite of her living well and being responsible. She simply can’t afford $1,000 a month to rent a room.

This situation caused me to revisit my thoughts on the role of the church in the community. The Bible makes it clear that the Body of Christ should be His hands and feet in the world. Yes, it means we should be declaring the gospel wherever we are, but I also think it means sharing His love in a way that meets physical and emotional needs and not only spiritual ones; in fact, in the process of meeting those tangible needs, we are often able to address the ones less visible.

I am afraid that the western church has become too comfortable. The state has been more than willing to take over our God-entrusted responsibilities and we have allowed it. We hide behind “separation of church and state” or we tout legalities as reasons for not getting our hands dirty. We assume someone else will take care of it when we don’t want to or assuage our unsettled consciences by saying we would do something if God told us directly to do it. We have become very good at sitting in our pew and nodding our heads and going home to our routines.

I was thinking about the number of churches in an average American city and considered the potential within them. What would happen if ALL Christians helped the homeless in their communities? Took in children in need? Provided shelter for those fleeing abuse? Cleaned up our streets? Offered tutoring programs? Created job opportunities? Offered counseling services? Established pregnancy resource centers? Imagine if those churches that are already doing some of these things mentored the ones who are not! Consider the resources, gifts and skills that are idling and the impact they would have if they were kicked into gear!

James tells us that faith without works is dead. This does not mean we can earn our salvation; salvation is by God’s grace alone; it is impossible to earn salvation. What it does mean is that if we have faith nothing can stop us from declaring it by doing all the good we can; in doing so our faith is bolstered. I want to challenge you to start praying today about what God wants YOU to do in YOUR community. Don’t let COVID stop you; don’t let the state stop you; don’t let naysayers stop you. If God is prompting you to reach out and make a difference, do it! and then see what happens!

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Some Thoughts and Some Changes

Have you seen 1917? I do advise caution before watching it since there is strong language and graphic images. However, it does offer a reminder that history has happened; what we have was purchased at a steep price- a price I’m not so sure we would be willing to pay today.

I’m attempting to keep a finger on the pulse of our nation and it is irregular at best. It would seem that there are those who laud the ideals of the past and there are those who prefer contemporary ones. We are engaged in a tug-of-war of values: tolerance versus morality; cancel culture versus freedom of speech; equality versus liberty. It is as if there are two different Americas within our borders; two different languages; two different ways of thinking. And to uphold what we hold most close to heart requires standing up, not to a foreign empire, not to a terrorist, but to our fellow citizens. And this presents a quandary: do we stand up and risk further division or do we remain quiet and risk losing our liberties or silencing our conscience?

Reflecting on history also makes me wonder if we have made comfort an idol. I think our society is willing to sacrifice ethics on the altar of entertainment while choosing to worship convenience at the price of principles. We don’t want to believe that wrong is happening- unless it interferes with our state of ease. We don’t want to investigate unless our routines are interrupted. Learning about the London Plague of 1665 I realized that the annals of the past have more heartache, devastation and injustice written in them than they have victory and success and justice.

I think that we are in the process of writing a grim chapter in America’s history book. Will tomorrow’s students wonder about how a virus with a 99% recovery rate brought us to our knees in fear, how we grumbled about our sports’ seasons being delayed and our favorite shows being cancelled, how we were frustrated that we couldn’t get same-day deliveries from Amazon and take-out and drive-thru became the only restaurant options? And all the while our range of motion became gradually smaller: what we could say, what we could do, where we could go, who we could see, what we could research, what we could think, what we could believe…all became determined by those in government?

I’m not about to tell you what to do, but here’s what I plan to do as things change all around me:

I plan to pray. I will plead with God for the hearts of my countrymen to be surrendered to Him. I will ask Him to keep my heart sensitive to His prompting for He knows what my next steps need to be.

I plan to memorize Scripture so that Christ’s words will be the first on my lips.

I plan to read. I want my thinking to be shaped by the wisdom of old, the imagination of geniuses and the experiences of my books friends- not by popular opinion and mainstream media. Current events are just happening and are our contemporaries; history has already happened and makes the best teacher.

I plan to share. As I pray and read and learn I am going to share my thoughts.

I plan to reach out to my community. Nothing can replace the tangible connection between individuals. Social media is not an equivalent substitute for face-to-face conversations, heartfelt discussions about ideas, warm hugs, surprise meals left at a neighbor’s door, spontaneous visits for tea and talks, waves and smiles as we go about our day.

We are at a point where we have to choose if we are going to be forever distanced from one another or if we are going to salvage what matters most to us. I am not ready to slip into a coma of apathy; I plan to live freely and breathe deeply of the oxygen of liberty. So here’s to writing letters, reading books, making phone calls and front porch chats with neighbors. People have done it in the past why can’t we do it now?

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A Little Girl Turns 4

“Mama, here’s your pink girl!” she announces as she runs towards me and hugs me, all cozy in pink pajamas, pink tutu and pink socks. I have to pinch myself to remember that she is turning 4 and not 14 because her ownership of life surpasses her young age. She doesn’t question her decisions, never second guesses her desires. She floats and twirls through her day: thumb in mouth, fingers twirling her hair, her pink tutu emphasizing every step she takes.

I wonder about this girl. She is perhaps the one who has challenged me the most in being authentic as a mom because she has pushed me out of my comfort zone. I have attempted to adjust to her personality in an effort to appease her need for adventure and intrigue only to discover that what makes her the most content is for me to be me. But I’m learning that there is a lot of untapped adventure and imagination in me that she is drawing out by just being herself. It’s a wonderful dance.

I adore this girl. She is fervent about living, undaunted by what most would find uncomfortable: a frigid bath, spicy food, loving onions, playing in winter weather while wearing summer clothes and playing in summer weather while wearing winter clothes, twirling until she is dizzy, being thrown as high as her Poppa can send her, jumping until she is breathless, hanging upside down as long as she can, dancing and dancing and dancing. She is drawn to the challenge and if life doesn’t offer one, she will create her own.

I pray for this girl: that she will dance and twirl through life, content in who God has designed her to be; that she will be undaunted by the darkness of this world and will seize the challenge of shining Christ’s light wherever she goes; that she will find living for Jesus to be all the adventure her heart craves and that winning souls for His kingdom will be her greatest thrill.

Happy 4th birthday my darling Girl. May the melody of joy be forever fervent in your heart.

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Parallels With Middle Earth

Every holiday season my husband and I watch one of the Tolkien movies. We used to make it our goal to watch the entire LOTR trilogy before January first, but alas! reality has adjusted that goal to simply one of the three. This season was no different and the one we completed was The Two Towers. While watching it I considered how much the human experience resembles a journey through Middle Earth.

I think many of us admire the elves, the Riders of Rohan, Aragorn and perhaps even the strength and ax-prowess of Gimli the Dwarf. But I have a feeling that the ones we identify with are the hobbits. We would like to be known for our gifts and talents and to be able to react accurately under intense pressure, but we are all too aware of our small stature in this great, wide world, our bumbling ways and just our every day-ness, if you will. These factors can deter us from leaving our comfortable corners and stepping out the front door.

But it’s really in our routine that we can gain our strength- strength of heart and mind. The routines and comforts of home grounded them and allowed them to take on the adventure while still holding on to their sense of self. They were on speaking terms with warriors, rubbed shoulders with elves, defied the vilest of evil and never stopped being hobbits who loved a good book and a warm hearth. Ironically, it was by being themselves that they had the greatest impact on those around them.

What stands out about the hobbits was that they pushed themselves, not to be who they weren’t, but to become who they were supposed to be. It was on the journey that the hobbits discovered their resilience, their courage and their fidelity, not only to their comrades, but to the cause. Yes, they liked second breakfasts and enjoyed a good riddle and the delicious tobacco leaf only the Shire could produce; those things never changed. However, they also realized that they did care about more than just their hobbit holes and that they wanted to make a difference for all who called Middle Earth home. The hobbits desired victory over evil more than the comforts of home; the comforts of home gave them the courage to participate in the war that threatened what they loved.

What about us? We might not have the bow prowess of an elf or be able to lead an outnumbered army into battle, but can we actually identify with the hobbits? I believe I can. There are days when I find the world a daunting place. I don’t see how my little corner of the world is having any impact anywhere; I’m not fighting legal battles in court or pounding the pavement in prayer or raising thousands of dollars for a cause. I just cook and clean and teach and do it all over again day after day after day.

Yet I think that is important too. It’s in the day after day after day that my mind has time to resolve what it believes; my heart can develop resilience; and my body can get ready. I don’t know when an opportunity will arise when I will be called to open the door and take that first step on a very long journey. I don’t know when I will have an impact on someone who is already on their journey. I don’t know when the shadows of darkness will start to cross my threshold and I’ll have to fight.

We are on the cusp of a new year and the unknown looms over us. Let’s be encouraged to be who we are and excited about who we will become.

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What I want

Fallen leaves. A vintage playground. Blowing up balloons. Learning how to read. What connects all of these? They are what brings pure delight into my children’s lives and what remind me that simplicity offers the greatest wealth.

If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that I can’t plan for the new year. Instead of setting goals and resolutions for 2021, I am going to aim for growth and a simpler life. Life is all too unpredictable for the luxury of assuming things will always be the same. I never thought there would come a day when I could no longer dine in a restaurant with my husband or fly back home without allowing for a two week quarantine when I got there. Yes, it’s time to identify what I truly want to do today and then do it. Tomorrow it might not be possible.

The other day we visited a vintage playground tucked away in a secluded meadow. Somehow the sunlight filtering through the fall-hued leaves caused time to pause. I felt like I was simultaneously an observer of the past, present and the future. I could vividly recall being 4 and 5 years old and I wondered where the past thirty years had gone. I realized that the meltdowns and missed naps and messy bedrooms won’t really matter thirty years from now; but I also realized that I won’t always be tucking my little ones in bed at night; one day my hand will fit inside theirs; the wonder of being able to read will become a thing of the past and there will no longer be fights over whose turn it is to sit in my lap. These thoughts lulled me into a reverent silence. My heart grieved and rejoiced and pondered.

Just as my children know what they enjoy doing and make a point of doing it, I want to do the same in 2021. I want to recognize what nourishes my soul and make ample time for that nourishment. I want to do the things that build a storehouse of memories for years to come. I want to embody the values I hope to instill in my children. I want to be less consumed with the temporary and more invested in what lasts. I want to keep a simple perspective: that all I have is today so I need to live each moment well.

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