Archive - Love RSS Feed

When Little Birds Fly the Nest

bird nest

It began at birth, really. Even while I held my baby girl in my arms for the first time, while the scent of her was becoming an imprint in my brain and tiny tendrils inextricably wound themselves round my heart, the dance of separation had already begun.

A push and a cry and a snip of a cord were the first steps.

Over the next few years we cheered her on as she learned her own peculiar military style of crawling, then took her first steps. We video taped her telling stories at her second birthday party. She learned to feed herself; dress herself. She spent an hour away from us. Then a night. Then several days at Mammaw’s house in the summer. And I cried as we drove away. This crazy mix of pride, and joy, and loss.

And she learned, and grew, and thrived.

We wrote wonderful stories with those years. Travels and explores. Slumber parties, butterfly gardens, secrets, friends. She took photographs and wrote poems and learned to cook, and bit by bit the young woman she was made to be revealed itself.

And she was lovely.

There were growing pains. All of us figuring out how to walk in new seasons. Conflict. Anger. Tears.

But from that, a deep knowing. An understanding stamped on all our hearts of what it means to love one another relentlessly. To fail one another. To forgive.

She finished high school. She got a job. Or two. She bought her own clothes, did her own laundry, dreamed her own dreams. She collected classic films, artisanal teas, and gourmet cooking implements. She cooked us some fantastic meals.

And then, my baby girl had a baby girl of her own. And she grew some more. We watched her love this little one fiercely. We saw her make sacrifices. We saw her rise before the sun, work hard, spend wisely and save. She was driven to make a good life for her daughter.

Today, Kelsey is buying a home. And over the next few days, she will move all her belongings out of our house. And she will wake up somewhere else. And I have never been more proud of her. Never.

And my heart hurts.

Just a little.

I help her pack things up. She hums like she always does when she is happy. And this is so right. And I would not wish it other for a minute. But our family as it has been for a very long time will be no more. And I am grieving that.

And thinking about birds. Who do this every year. And giving thanks that I only have three.

Incidentally, Jake is going with her. As, of course, is Kenzie. So our household of six is becoming a household of three.

New season.

Godspeed, dear ones. Fly far and true. I love you. Always.

“To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven…
He hath made everything beautiful in its time.”
~Ecclesiastes 3:1,11

 

*Painting by Cari Humphry

Be Kind

It is like a weight in the chest. Pressing in. Threatening to steal the breath. And you carry it with you everywhere; to work, to the grocery store, even to church. No one may ever know it is there. You wish you could forget it, lay it down for a moment. The grief is so deep. Sometimes you wonder if it will kill you.

You seem to be late everywhere you go. And you forget things. And you know people are frustrated with you and you wish you could think clearly but there are so many things to remember, so many decisions to make, so much that could go wrong, and a precious shortage of solutions. And you are tired. So tired. But sleep does not come. Will life ever be better than this? Will it ever be “normal” again?

I know this feeling. Intimately.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had in the past couple of weeks with friends who are up against something so big that it threatens to undo them. My heart hurts for them. Yet they get up every morning, get dressed, feed their children, and go back at it again. Their courage inspires me. And as I watch them walk in the world like the most ordinary heroes, I wonder how many of the people I encounter every day are carrying burdens like these…

She is making excruciating decisions to insure the compassionate and competent care of her mother who can no longer care for herself. Her mother doesn’t understand. She is furious.

She and her husband have completely reordered their lives to accommodate the unique needs of their precious son who they love more than life. It is a choice they make willingly. But it comes at a heavy price.

She wonders if the divorce was a mistake. But he has already remarried. And her children adore their new stepmother. She has never felt more alone.

Earlier this week, my friend Laura related this story:

This morning I mentioned to a check-out clerk at a local business how happy I was to see her back at work (she had been gone the last few times I had stopped in and I had missed her). As her eyes brimmed with tears, she shared that her daughter had died unexpectedly and she was just getting back after receiving custody of her grandchildren. We talked a few minutes longer until the next customer came to the register and she thanked me for asking about her a couple times. I would have missed such a blessing and an opportunity to share love with this sweet lady had I hurried in and out this morning like I sometimes do – a powerful lesson I won’t soon forget!

Today you and I will live our lives among people who are hurting, whether we know it or not. We have the opportunity to be dispensers of grace and generosity.

Let us be kind.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~Philo of Alexandria

The First 50 Years…

50

Dearest Mom and Dad,

To live with the same person for 50 years is an extraordinary work of grace. Ask anyone who has been married more than a minute. To love long is also an extraordinary gift; to one another and to all those who love you. For this, I thank you.

As this auspicious day has drawn near, I have wondered: when you look back over 50 years, what is it you remember? When the film reel plays in your mind, what are the images you see?

Here is a little taste of what I remember.

Music. Before any of us kids were born, maybe even before you were married, you were the song leader and piano player. And as soon as we were old enough, each of us joined you singing in church. It was like a right of passage. We sang in the cornfield and in the car, and for whole evenings around the piano. Dad had Don Williams and Merle Haggard on 8 track and mom liked WEZK on the radio, and everywhere there was Southern Gospel and bluegrass. Now your grandchildren gather in your living room with guitar, dulcimer, mandolin, banjo, and piano and sing like we sang. And your legacy continues…

Faith. God and His Church were the axis upon which our whole life as a family was oriented. We fitted our week around it; leaving the garden or the field on Saturday afternoons to wash and dress for the evening service and consecrating Sunday as a day of worship and rest and family. And though all of us serve God in different places now, the thread of faith still binds us together wherever we are.

Travel. I suppose I owe my gypsy wanderlust to the two of you. We grew up camping in the mountains or on the river. So many trips to the beach with cousins. The Great Smoky Mountains, New Orleans, Washington D.C… As retirement has given you more time to travel, I find myself following you to places like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Alaska. Thank you for stoking my curiosity.

Magic. In a thousand different shapes and forms. Birthday cakes you bought us from the bakery; Snow White on mine, horses on Marvin’s. Every year. Huffy trail bikes that made us masters of our world. Piling in the back of the truck on a hot day and heading for the river. Swimming til we were exhausted, then eating watermelon and peanut butter and crackers while the cool of the water still tingled in our skin. Catching lightening bugs on summer evenings. Walking barefoot in soft earth, still warm from the plow. Watching calves be born. So. Many. Stories. Tramping through the woods to find the perfect Christmas tree. The Raggedy Man. Snow sledding. Gathering wild Muscadines….

For Better or Worse. You had a fight once. On a Sunday afternoon. I don’t know if you remember it, but I do. I remember what it was about and even some of the exact things you said. Marvin and Monty and I sat out in the back yard deciding who we would go live with if the two of you split up. I mention this mostly because it was such a singular event. In all my growing up, it was the only time I ever thought, even for a minute, that I might be one of those kids shuttled between homes. Certainly you have disagreed and hurt one another from time to time, but I have always known you were in this for the long haul. It means more than you know.

For Richer or Poorer. The early years were lean. I know that now. I don’t think I thought much about it then. Dad worked extra jobs in the evening and mom made all our clothes. But in the process, Marvin learned the electrical trade he practices today and I learned to sew. Gifts. In the time of plenty, you have been generous with us and with others. Thank you for making the most of both.

In Sickness and in Health. When I was a kid, I thought adults never got sick. The two of you didn’t. In recent years, that has changed, of course. I have watched you love and care for one another through Mom’s battle with breast cancer and Dad’s open heart surgery. A team. I remember coming to help after Mom’s surgery and being a little hurt that she preferred Dad’s care to mine. But that is how it should be. And I am glad. You tended both your mothers with kindness and dignity as their health failed. And when little Tucker was born needing extra special care, you gave him your all. I know Monty will never forget that. None of us will.

Til Death… I sometimes wonder if the two of you are aging backwards. Yes, I know that your bodies don’t always cooperate like they used to, but your minds and your hearts seem to keep expanding. Your curiosity knows no bounds. Listening to you describe your trip to the Panama Canal this year was almost as good as being there. Mom is always adding some new flower to the garden and dad is always finding some new, old fruit tree. New grand babies and great grand babies keep coming who need to ride Papaw’s tractor and eat Mamaw’s chocolate gravy and biscuits. Life is full of so much possibility. I can’t wait to see what the next 50 years hold. :)

Happy Anniversary!!

I love you!

God grant you many, many more…

For I Will Consider My Granddaughter Kenzie…

IMG_2775

FOR I WILL CONSIDER MY GRANDDAUGHTER KENZIE

For she catches sunbeams in her hands and puts out her tongue to taste them.

For she looks at me just before plunging both feet into a puddle and she is all mischief and wonder and delight and I try to remember why I shouldn’t let her but I forget.

For she must spin if the grass is green and the lawn is large.

For sometimes she pauses just at the top of the slide to gaze at the lawn and I know she is spinning in her heart.

For she buries her whole face in a blossom to breathe its scent and emerges blissful and flecked with pollen.

For she loves her mommy.

For she awakens a sweet radiance in her mommy, soft and gentle and all joy.

For she is generous to all, especially to old people.

For she holds her head sideways when she poses for a photograph.

For after the photograph, she says “awww, cute”.

For she loves her Pops

For she loves music and making music and people who make music and instruments that make music.

For music makes her dance.

For she wields both fork and spoon with dexterity but prefers to eat with her hands.

For when she asks for candy she always says “just one”, but does not mean it.

For she loves Josh and Jake.

For sometimes she holds her cup with her feet just because she can.

For she tucks one corner of her paci inside her lip.

For she colors with mad, bold strokes and makes no apologies about that.

For she loves books.

For she is a mixture of gravity and waggery.

For she greets every morning, every moment, with expectation that something wonderful is about to happen.

For sometimes when I hold her she puts one hand in my hair and one on my face and I know what it means to be truly happy.

For she has a shoe fetish, yet prefers to be barefoot.

For her toes are soft and round and make sweet wet footprints on the porch after she has walked in the dew.

For she loves to pray.

For she laughs easily and often and always out loud.

For she climbs everything.

For she loves water and perceives it as a personal gift to her from someone who loves her.

For sometimes she kisses me first.

For there is nothing sweeter than her peace when at rest.

For there is nothing brisker than her life when in motion.

For she is of the tribe of angel.

For she loves me.

IMG_2747

*The form of the poem is borrowed from Mary Oliver’s “For I Will Consider My Dog Percy” She, in turn, borrowed it from Christopher Smart’s “For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry.” Lines in italics are borrowed from both.

  puddle

For Joshua…

Josh Baby with Hat

Dearest Joshua,

We almost missed you, you know. We thought for a while that maybe two children were enough. But I began to have this awful feeling, this sense that someone was missing. It was never about having three kids really. I just knew we weren’t all here yet. And then there was you. The moment you were born, everything was right. Our family was complete.

I love your passion. You have this way of settling into a moment and drinking its nectar to the dregs. I think of you when I read these words from Jack Kerouac:

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”

I envy your audacity; your willingness to dream BIG dreams. I exult in your joie de vivre. It is contagious, you know. You are a celebration waiting for an excuse. And I love the way a person’s face lights up when he or she talks about you. :)

joshfamily2

Do you suppose there is anyone in the world as curious as you? Hotel room, new car, hiking trail, doesn’t matter. You are always up for an explore. And you do not stop until you know everything there is to know. For you, the world is a wondrous place, full of possibility. Never lose that.

Your creativity inspires and delights me. Whether you are decorating the table, arranging food artfully on a plate, redecorating your room, or assembling an outfit, you are compelled to make things beautiful. I like that about you.

You are one of my very favorite singers. I enjoy singing with you in the car or around the house. But I especially love seeing you on stage. You belong there, you know. I remember the first time you sang in the talent show at school. You sang Amazing Grace. Clean. Clear. And when you finished, no one moved. They just sat there letting the last echoes hang in the room, afraid to breathe, afraid to disturb the magic. It was a marvelous moment.

Your skills as an actor seem to have grown exponentially in the past couple of years. Seeing you in Legally Blonde was remarkable. I was so caught up in your storytelling, I sometimes forgot it was you I was watching. Keep telling stories, my love; in your art and with your life. The world is hungry for them.

I love that you give your talents to God. And I love that you have the courage to try new things, things that scare you: auditioning for shows, leading worship at church. I am eager to see where your art takes you.

IMG_2869

Seeing you with Kenzie is gift. You have always been pied piper of the littles. Younger cousins love to be where you are, and children who visit our home always remember “Josh”. And now there is this niece who adores you; who comes in the house asking for you every morning. You will be a wonderful father someday. Of this, I am sure.

I don’t remember exactly when it was that you started giving me three kisses at night or when we part. It seems like it has always been so. When I am an old lady and can’t remember my name, give me three kisses and I will remember you. :)

I am so grateful that I did not miss knowing you, beloved. Life is more vivid, more vibrant and vivacious because there is you. Blessings to you on this, your 16th birthday!

I love you.

Always.

joshgatlin

 

The Fiction of Speed

heart

Yesterday was a day for talking about love. Facebook and Twitter were full of sweet tributes. Two of my favorites were unlikely stories. Couples who shouldn’t have made it, but have.

K talked about the gift of being married to the love of her life. This, in the midst of a heroic, difficult battle against cancer. A battle they are fighting TOGETHER. And this in spite of the fact that there was a time when she did not cherish him and what they had together.

W spoke honestly of her personal hell year. The year she hated her husband. In the thirteen years since, she and he have worked to build a beautiful, real, deep love that only seasons and grows with years. They have added three chosen children from Ethiopia to the two born of blood. Theirs is a radiant, vibrant family. It is impossible to say how many lives have been changed…are being changed…daily…because of them.

Both of these women were important voices in my life during the season when I wanted to chuck it all and have done with being married. They were generous enough to tell their stories. They were kind enough to listen to the nonsense that I believed at the time…all my arrogant, petty protests about what I “deserved”. Then, they were wise enough to tell me the truth. In love. To challenge me to do the hard thing. And the hard thing after that…

There is something lovely about young love. The giddy excitement. The breathless wonder. I have a friend who is living in this world at present. It is great fun to watch. But I have come to have a high regard for old love. The sort that is fermented. Tested.

Not everyone goes through a season, like Mike and I did, where they can hardly tolerate the very presence of the other. But everyone who is married will have periods when something is more “urgent” than tending the marriage. New baby. Illness. Job loss. Death of a parent…or a child. Something that seems to take all you have. This is where the battle is won or lost.

This is when you give without demanding return. This is when you daily throw yourself on the grenade for the good of the other. This love is not sexy or convenient, but raw, and rugged, and real.

This kind of love creates a safe place to become. A safe place to dream audacious dreams. A place to dare that which you would never have dared alone. A place to be chiseled and refined into something glorious. Where life reigns regardless of circumstances.

I want a love like that.

Don’t you?

I have these young friends. Too young to be as wise as they are. But they sing a song about this very thing. I kept playing it yesterday, and reading the stories of long love, and my heart celebrated men and women who are courageous enough, and stubborn enough, to hang in there long enough, to tell a great story with their lives. I share the song with you. I dedicate it to K and G, to W and B, and to all those who daily choose to die to self in order to love well. May your tribe increase.

*Post title borrowed from the song by Lulu Mae. If you like this song, you will love their album The Mockingbird and the Dogwood Tree.

Good Soil…

goodsoil2

Our family has this thing for piling birthdays on top of one another. Mike and I celebrate both our birthdays and an anniversary within a two week period. And 4 days later we celebrate the birth of our youngest. Our oldest two have birthdays two days apart in November. Crazy! But we got it honestly….

I used to think that Groundhog Day was a special holiday made for my parents. A bridge between their birthdays–February 1 and 3–back when I thought all the world revolved around my parents. You remember that?

Today, on their bridge holiday, I give thanks for just a bit of what it has meant to be their daughter.

My dad is one of the most curious people I know. If you asked me what is the greatest legacy he has passed on to me, I might say this is it; He taught me to be curious. He knows the name of every tree that grows in Appalachia. You think I’m lying, but I’m not. Most of the plants too. And if you sit down to look at photos from any of their many travels you will learn all about who built the railway they are riding on in Alaska and why, or who settled any given place, or just what it tastes like to eat a mango fresh off the tree in Hawaii.

This he gave to me. Maybe genetically. But most certainly by example. Ask anyone who knows me. I ask a lot of questions. Not to be polite. But, because I have this insatiable need to know. Just like my daddy.

My mom read to me before memory. My earliest recollections are of stories already well worn. Familiar. Comfortable. Loved. Mostly out of Childcraft books she earned for our family by stepping out of her comfort zone and selling Wold Book Encyclopedias. I inhaled those books as a child. I drank in any story that she told. And even when my children came along and she told them stories, that same magic sent chills up my spine. If you ever hear my mom recite The Raggedy Man, you will understand. Maybe.

This crazy obsession I have with words…my love of crawling inside another’s world through the stories they tell…it is all her fault. She opened a place in me I have never been able to close. Nor do I want to.

Today, while all of you are trying to figure out if winter has had done with us or not, I am mostly thinking about the good soil in which I was blessed to be planted. And giving thanks.

Happy (day between your) Birthday, Dad and Mom!! I love you, and am deeply grateful that you are exactly who you are. God grant you many, many years!

This year…

This morning you sleep in my house. I will cook for you. And wash your clothes. There will be music. And conversation. And laughter.

Once, this was the stuff of our everyday. Ordinary.

Not any more.

Some years grow us more than others. Such has been this year. So much has changed. And all of us have had to grow into the new of it. Today I honor you, my son, and remember…

This year you got your first real job. The kind you go to everyday. You learned to handle some pretty stressful situations. You took pride in your work and made many new friends.

This year you accumulated a whole bevy of musical instruments. And the crazy thing is you can play all of them. Your curiosity and chutzpa know no bounds. I love that about you.

This year you have wrestled (are wrestling) with big decisions about your future and how it is that you want to spend your life. You have asked important questions and looked deep within.

This year you have said a great many goodbyes. I know goodbye is not your favorite. But I have seen you seek ways to stay connected with good friends. And, of course, you have added a great many new folks to your circle of friendship.

This year you fell in love. It has been beautiful to watch you grow into love with this precious young woman. To see your tenderness and kindness, your creativity and generosity, take precise aim. She is a lucky girl.

This year you moved away. I won’t pretend to write this without a catch in my throat. But I am so proud of how you have handled yourself. I knew you were ready. I knew you would love having friends just outside your door, and you do. I knew you would sit out on the grass and play your music into the night. I did not know you and some friends would buy hammocks and erect little hammock highrises for your moonlight forays. But I am not surprised.

For nineteen years I have had the privilege of watching you grow. Watching you discover all that it means to be Jake; find the hidden nooks and crannies of the self God created you to be. It is a process that will take the whole of your life. But this year you have made some giant strides. I have never been more proud of you.

Happy Birthday, Beloved! God grant you many, many, many, many, many years! (Is that enough “many”s? ;) *inside joke*)

21

We woke before dawn. I showered, dressed, then looked through the hospital bag for the thousandth time. We stepped out into the dark cool of the day you would be born.

There had been this moment, the night before, when I was almost sad that the secret of you was about to be over. The way you would turn somersaults in church and I was the only one who knew. The quiet conversations we two had when no one else was around. And yet, I craved your little body. I ached to finally nuzzle the warm soft of you. To see your beautiful face.

The nurses laughed at dad as he “conducted’ you into the world. He was supposed to count 10 as I pushed, but he always stopped at 8. He could only group beats into fours. :)

I can see you cringing at this, but I love this memory: The nurse commented at one point that you had lots of hair. Dad said, “You can see her head?!” Then, of course, he had to see your head too…

There was pushing. There was pain. And then, there was you.

You flailing and reaching and breathing air. You sticky and red and perfectly wonderful. You soft and warm against the outside of me.

I have never

gotten over

this.

And now, my darling daughter, you and I have laced together 21 years of being and knowing together. What do I say of this?

Do I speak of the stories you told at your 2nd birthday party? Of how we used to wake up and find Jake’s bed filled with toys you had delivered to him? Of that delightful habit you have of singing while you work? Of Arabia, sleepovers, movies, friends?

I have been challenged, dear one, to love better because of you. You have taught me much about being a mother. About being a human. And your generosity to others…especially to the unseen…inspires me and makes me want to be more like you.

We have had some fun, have we not? I especially treasure the time we had, just us girls, traipsing across Europe. Living out of our backpacks…in hostels…on the cheap. And having a BLAST!! Thank you for that.

Today, you are an adult. Truth is you have walked in the shoes of an adult for some time now. Quite admirably, I might add. Seeing you mother your little one is a joy. When you come in the door with shopping bags bulging and a guilty look on your face and everything is for  baby…when the two of you giggle in the back seat on road trips…when I see your gentle patience with your daughter (a quality woefully lacking in me at your age)…when you rise early, again, to go to work and build a future for the two of you…I am in awe.

The first time I held you in my arms, dear one, I was smitten. Forever. But I had no idea how rich, and magical, and difficult, and funny, and wondrous the next few years were going to be. Twenty-one years later, I love you–and like you–more than ever. I am very glad there is you in the world. In my world.

Happy Birthday, dearest Kelsey! God grant you many, many years!

Oil of Joy

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor….to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. ~Isaiah 61: 1, 3

It felt like a kick in the stomach. A word whispered across a table.

Pregnant.

In a moment life as we knew it scudded to a halt. I saw my daughter’s world shrinking. Doors of opportunity slamming closed. My heart hurt for her. For us all. It seemed tragic. Hopeless.

More than two years have passed since that night, and there have been moments of great anguish. But there has been so much more. And the world I thought I saw closing around my daughter has opened whole new places in her. I have watched her grow in wisdom and patience, in gentleness and generosity. I have watched her make difficult sacrifices for the good of another. This little one she loves so fiercely. There is softness in her. Grace.

And yes, life is not the same. Not for any of us. But we reap our daily bounty of new mercies. And our lives drip with the oil of joy.

This week, the wee one is a year and a half old. She had trouble sleeping yesterday because of some painful teeth coming in, so I held her for most of her nap. Something I have not done in a long time. As I watched the rise and fall of her breathing and felt the soft warmth of her against me, I whispered a doxology over this unsolicited blessing.  A deep gratitude. She provided an amen of sleep drunk smiles and sighs.

If you are sitting in the ashes of a broken dream just now…if yours is the season of despair…I invite you to consider what God might have in store for you. Here’s a little taste of what He has done for us…

*The first photo, as well as the last two were taken by my daughter, the mommy. The mostly unseen participant in the video is uncle Josh whom Kenzie adores. :)

 

Page 2 of8«12345»...Last »