Callie’s Baby Shower

Some people laughed really, really hard at the little guy Grace drew that was supposed to be Baby Ezra.
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Some people laughed just stirring up the salad dressing.
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There was actually quite a bit of laughter going on that day.
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Although little boys chewing blue bubble gum cigars definitely were not laughing because that blue gum was serious business.

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There were many beautiful hand-made gifts.
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And amazing food and drinks shared with lovely friends.
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Things got a little on the wild side with the song game. Probably because certain people are a little on the competitive side.

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And when it was time to open presents, I was overwhelmed once more by what is right here, in front of my eyes.
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And while the little boys went a little nuts by this part of the shower…
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Throwing all the wrapping paper and laughing and running around so fast, my camera couldn’t keep up with them…
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The little girls took that same wrapping paper and discarded boxes and colored beautiful things inside them, while I heard one of them say to the other, “We’re really calm, right?”
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But of course, they were also chewing the blue bubble gum cigars…those calm little girls.
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These three girls are what is right in front of my eyes, almost all of them fully grown, and for now, all living near me. Two of them married to amazing young men. One of them about to deliver my first grandbaby. I simply can’t get used to these facts. I am overwhelmed when I consider them.
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And as grandmas often do (because yes, I am almost a full-grown grandma now), I reminisce.

I see this picture…
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… and it’s the exact same as this picture…

I am overwhelmed.

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To Even Exist

This song has now randomly come on my Pandora shuffle twice over the last few weeks. The first time was right after I got finished walking on the beach after a hard day at work. I walked and I let the wind and the water heal my tired soul. I stood with my pants rolled up and let the waves wash over the bottoms of my legs and gazed out at the afternoon sun, sinking into the western sea and I remembered how beautiful life was. Then I got in my car to drive home and this song came on. It was the first time I had ever heard it. I turned it up while I drove and somehow made it home through the tears that threatened to blind me. That night I played it for Chris, loudly, with all the lights off, while we laid on the floor and watched the stars through the trees silhouetted against the night sky out our living room windows.

Today, while in the middle of a good day at work, it randomly came on again. And just like that, I was wasted at my desk. I thought of my Uncle David, possibly in his last moments of the fever of this life in ICU on the other side of the country. I thought of my parents, who have given me so much, all four of my grandparents who have now gone to their rests, and my great-grandparents before them, some of whom I never knew but I am here to carry on their legacy nonetheless. I thought of lovely faces much-loved and now gone: Jamie, Jay, Nathan, Christina… I thought of the many faces and names still here, living at the same time as me. I thought of all that we give to one another, all that we need from one another, and how amazing it truly is, this life.

I thought of my grandson, Ezra, yet to be born. I have not yet seen his face, but I can’t wait to kiss it. I can’t wait to know him and others that will come after him. I can’t wait to continue to pass on this legacy. I can’t wait to rock him in my living room with all the lights off, and show him the stars through the trees silhouetted against the night sky out our living room window.

When I was young, I used to invite my friends over for the latest “Mood Music” I had discovered. There were rules to listening to Mood Music. The entire house had to be pitch black and we had to have really good speakers turned up as loud as they could go. We had to lay on the floor in the darkness and just feel the music while it played. I’d like to invite you to do that now. Even though we’re not in the same house, please follow the rules as you listen to this song. I figure since it’s now killed me softly twice, I must share it.

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Sadie’s Wedding

We got over 1000 wedding pictures and they are beautiful… all of them. I have been overwhelmed, looking through them, by all that we have been blessed with in this last year.

There is so much that I don’t want to forget…

I don’t want to forget that my Sadie wore no shoes at her wedding, just like she always told me she wouldn’t, even though I always told her she had to. I have spent a lifetime just trying to make that girl put shoes on her feet just for school and church. Nothing else. Just those two places. And yet, for her whole life, as soon as we got inside the door of the church each week, the shoes would come off and I never knew where they were or if we would ever see them again. And lo and behold, when she knelt for the final blessing at the end of the wedding ceremony, one foot stuck out the side of her wedding dress, the bottom of it completely black as always. I stage-whispered to her sister (the maid of honor): “Grace! Cover her foot!” And Grace did cover it, but not before the photographer took the picture, for which I will be eternally grateful.

I don’t want to forget that my dad, who officiated at my own wedding ceremony over 24 years ago, stood at the front of the church while my husband walked his baby girl down the aisle. Then my dad asked who gave this woman to be married to this man, and then stepped aside after the answer came (“her mother and I do”) so that his son-in-law could now officiate at his own daughter’s wedding for his first wedding ever as a priest.

I don’t want to forget Sadie as the cantor at her own wedding. She is normally the cantor at our church on Sunday mornings and we didn’t see any reason to change that for this wedding. There was something especially moving about seeing the bride, in a white wedding dress, singing the prayers on behalf of the entire church at her own wedding feast. If only we could always pray that way, as the loved-beyond-measure bride of Christ that we are.

I don’t want to forget Sadie singing the song she wrote to Elisha at the reception, with her comfy gray sweater over her wedding dress and her (still) bare feet, and Elisha’s reaction to the song. I don’t want to forget that my son-in-law is more perfect than anything I could ever imagined for my daughter. He lights up rooms wherever he goes and loves life in a big way and laughs in an even bigger way. He lights up her face too, in a way that I have never seen it light up, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy watching them relate to one another.

I don’t want to forget the bouquets, handmade with love from Anna’s garden; the rings, handmade with love by Elisha; or the 900-plus lightbulbs that were individually screwed into 900-plus light sockets that were already strung up over 9 feet high on the tennis court at Elisha’s family’s home for the reception.

I don’t want to forget that as we uprooted our family and moved halfway across the country, leaving behind friends and family and a church community full of loved ones, we landed smack dab in the middle of some of the most generous, artistic, honest, hard-working, sacramental, and just plain weird people we ever could have never imagined knowing. These people know how to party, let me tell you. Which is great because our family? Yeah, we like to party when it’s time to party. And at the wedding of my second-born, we partied.

I don’t want to forget my very favorite toast of the evening, given by Elisha’s uncle:

“Three toasts:

To Chris and Leslie, who have made a family that readily and graciously stretches its tent over all who draw near, and who have raised a daughter full of music and life and festivity, who took her vows with flowers in her hair and and no shoes on her feet…

To Nate and Anna, who were given a tennis court and used it as a lumber yard, and took that lumber yard and transfigured it into this party, and who poured that ingenuity and big-heartedness into their son, who just before the wedding was asking instructions for how to tuck in a shirt…

And to Sadie and Elisha, full of music and creativity, who can’t tie a shoe or tuck in a shirt, whose hair is full of flowers and the ocean and the sun, who’ve been fastened together in the love of the Father and the Son and the Ghost, who are to be made into something wildly beyond anything anyone here can imagine…

To the praise of His glory.”

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6 - Reception (43 of 55)

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Well now, look what I’ve done. I was only going to just post a few and I’ve gotten myself all out of control again. But what a day it was! I will not post 1000 pictures here, but I will give the link to Sadie & Elisha’s Wedding Day Album which is a (much smaller than 1000 pictures, but much larger than what’s posted here) Flickr album that I made of the entire day, in case you are my mom and you care.

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When Now Catches Up to You

You watch a video that somebody links on Facebook of a man being surprised by his mama from Africa that he hasn’t seen in ten years and you can’t stop crying. You think about how much we all really just long for home. And for our mamas. And for all the life-giving love and beauty and dignity and strength that they represent. And you think about the mother you are still trying to get to know. And you wonder why exactly you’ve been so afraid of getting to know the one who points the way to Christ.

And you try to remember who you were before two daughters got married. And you try to understand who you are now. And you try to imagine what it will be like to watch your daughter give birth to your grandchild. But you can’t imagine such things.

And your girl that is left spends her day making gifts for her sister who will give birth to her nephew in about a month. She asks if she can cut up the duvet cover that you use on your bed. When you say no, she finds other scraps from random places and sews and irons and creates, quietly and thoughtfully. She is probably trying to understand who she is now and she is figuring it out as her hands guide her through the work of today.

And you all decide together that tonight would be a good night to go watch the sunset on the cliff. And your husband makes jokes about you dressing for the winter storm when you go outside in California. But you’re no dummy. It ain’t no 100 degrees out there on that cliff.

And you walk out the door in your Arctic gear with nothing in your hand but your phone to type thoughts on in the car while your husband drives. And when you get halfway to the car, you yell back to him that you sure hope he has money for ice cream because you’re not bringing your purse.

And then you get to the cliff and you lay on your back and you hear the waves crash and you smell the sea and you watch the birds fly overhead and your husband lays down beside you while dogs named Lilo and Stitch run around your heads, panting. And you comment on how it’s hard to focus on the birds flying overhead because your eyes have so many black floaties in them and your husband comments that you are now at the age where the black floaties are just going to keep increasing until life is just one big black floatie thing. But for now it’s not. For now, it looks pretty amazing. You take a picture so you can remember.

And then you go get ice cream, and your husband pays.

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Eschaton

(my dear friend over at Ethelweard wrote this poem as a wedding present to my daughter and her new husband. I think I’ve never read anything so beautiful. It must be shared.)

For Sadie Jasper and Elisha, on their wedding-day.

An old man exiled on an island
(who when young had leaned back
on the Heart of God) at last
found his eyes so steeped in love
that the present moment melted
and Jerusalem descended dressed
as a bride for her husband, bright
as burnished jasper. From a sky
swirling with thunder and angels,
stars in flight and a dragon
ravening for the world, swords
springing from mouths and a Lamb
alive but somehow slain, the city comes
clad in familiar gems: no wilder things
than the things we know can offer,
embodied, the wedding of strength
and light.

At last the stones cry out: at last
no longer fleeting, beauty
is tuned to earthward, homing
to the center of love. And the bride
comes down, the treasure revealed
for which the wise man ran to give up
all.

So the men who heard God call
through the lilt of a human voice
have always run–from fathers, fields,
tax-collections, nets: so the one
who offered his oxen on the wood
that yoked them, turning
from the pyre of what he’d been
to chariots of fire.

The jewel and the prophet both
are sacraments of yes, the promise
made when morning blessed the deep:
one, the covenant gleaming
on Aaron’s breastplate and the streets
of Christ’s beloved; the other’s voice
and vision burning with the news
of coming day.

May you, the bride, simplicity
gilded with grace, glistening forth
from untold facets sparks
of sudden flame–even
in shadow may you be still
a harbor for the light. And bridegroom,
you whose forebear felt the whirlwind
smolder with God, may your fingers
listen at the edges of wood and stone
for the voice of Him who sounds
this world to bring us home.

May He without Whom nothing
is strong or holy bless you, keep you,
and shine on you in the place
where St. John came; and may He
Who joins you now fulfill
the promise of your names.

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Of All That Matters

Lately the things that matter most are blending in with the things that don’t matter at all and all of that matter together is taking over the universe. I post these pictures now to remind myself of that which matters most.

Beaches and bonfires with loved ones…

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The fourth of July with friends and sparklers…

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Boxes full of baby chicks showing up on my doorstep in the middle of the day, drawing me away from the stress of all that resides at my desk and sweeping me away into balls of fur and sounds of gladness for a few moments…

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An impromptu bridal shower in Dallas for my impromptu daughter with so many people coming to shower love on her; including friends and aunts and grandmas that she’s known since childhood and wild little flower girls that are still in their childhood, but will be grown before we know it…

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A no-boys-allowed surf day, in which I tried (and failed) at surfing and had the time of my life trying, even though my foot cramped in the cold water the entire time and my muscles were sore for days afterwards. The pictures and the laughs and the conversation on the beach afterward were the perfect remedy to the universe full of matter that’s ready to blow inside my head. The other day, I saw a whale way out on the horizon, blowing huge fountains of sea water into the sky. The ocean and all that it contains helps to clear my brain of superfluous matter…

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A house blessing for my daughter and son-in-law (and the little grandson who will join us soon), where we prayed and laughed and received blessings ourselves as the holy water landed everywhere and the prayers were lifted up all around us…

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And one final shower, here in our new home of California, surrounded by love and laughter…

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And weirdness…

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And really serious cuteness…

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And girls who have spent a lifetime being tired of having a camera pointed in their faces…

Enough with the camera already.

Enough with the camera already.

But I don’t care. I’ll keep dragging this camera around and pointing away. Because it matters and I need to remember that and sometimes this is the only way I know how. And eleven days from now, when we celebrate the wedding feast of our second-born, we’ll be right there in the midst of the matter, having done all that matters to prepare, and waiting with expectant joy for the look of love on the bridegroom’s face as his bride walks through the door, pure and beautiful.

And then we’ll dance.

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One Breath at a Time

It’s been a tough week. My childhood has come swirling around me in the midst of it.

I had a conversation this week about mental illness and depression and it’s made me dive. It’s made me reflect on my life. It’s made me wonder why, of the two families my family was closest with when we were little, both of them have now lost one of their four children, and both of the women of the family are now alone. Beautiful, Godly women, with beautiful children, all younger than me. I loved those children like they were my own babies, back when they were babies. One lost to a tragic accident at the age of 24 and one lost to a terrible disease at the age of 33; the same disease that claimed her dad thirteen years ago. She leaves behind a husband and two young children and a family full of people that will miss her every single day for the rest of their lives. Life hurts like hell sometimes.

My work is so stressful some days that I honestly don’t know how to go on. Sometimes I can’t go on, pure and simple, and I lay my head down on my desk and quit for two minutes. I’ve decided that my job title should be “stress eater” because that’s what I do. Everything that has the possibility of causing stress to another is immediately passed on to me. I open my mouth and I eat the stress and I handle the stress and I flounder in the stress so that others can have less stress. The problem is that while I may appear to be pretty good at handling all of that, I end up with a belly full of stress that sits there like a lump of concrete. And it’s been weighing me down lately. I need somebody to come eat my stress.

But today, while I sat at my desk, inhaling all that stress, I listened to two of my girls as they made invitations to the bachelorette party that they are planning for the other one of my girls. They thought through how many people might come and how long they might stand around talking before sitting down to eat and how much the food might cost and what people might wear and how the invitation should be worded. It ate some of my stress away to listen to their youthful joy and their love for one another and their excitement in planning this special event for their sister and her friends.

And when the clock said it was time to quit work, I shut off my screen, put on a tank top and flip flops and went to the beach with my husband. We watched our shadows spreading silently before us as we walked. When we decided we’d gone far enough, we sat in the warm sand and let the wind blow our hair and we watched the crashing waves for a bit. And then we walked back while the birds padded through the retreating water beside us, looking for wiggly things to eat.

Stress is wiggly. I think the birds ate some of mine.

My heart breaks for the family of my young friend tonight. I watched her grow up and I worked in Mexico with her and her family. Her dad was my dad’s closest friend and my husband’s mentor in the ministry and her mom was a mentor in so many ways to me as I raised my own young children. I haven’t seen her since she graduated college and I never even met her husband or children. My heart breaks for the life that has been lost. My heart breaks for my own life that is fleeting away and the lives of all those who have floated in and out through the fleetingness and the years that sometimes feel wasted. Death hurts like hell.

I lay on my couch in my house in the woods and I look up through the window at the night sky. The sound of the frogs float in through the screen, along with the scents of the wildflowers. The tall pines are silhouetted against the deep navy blue sky while the stars twinkle through their swaying branches. It’s amazing, this life, this world, this love that knows no bounds. Sometimes it fills me with joy to the point of bursting.

I know my Redeemer lives. I know there is beauty in the midst of this suffering. When I find the beauty (and it’s not hard when I open my eyes), I try to breathe it in and exhale the stress. One breath at a time.

The Harrowing of Hell

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