Monday, February 26, 2007

Dreaming Together (Part 2)

Last week Jeremiah and I went to Dothan for a couple of days during his recovery/week off. Pace was waiting for us there, because she took a little trip to her grandparent's house while I took care of the family's bigger baby :) We decided to re-visit the land we'd been praying about and to go just the two of us this time. We called Mrs. Norma, and she very graciously agreed to allow us free reign over her land for the afternoon. On the way there, I asked Jeremiah if we could play pretend. Could we pretend, while we walked around, that the land really did belong to us? Jeremiah, who is used to my overactive imagination (and has succumbed more times than he would be willing to admit), agreed to DREAM about what we would do with the land one day but put his foot down on the idea of make-believe. I agreed, with a giggle, that it did sound silly but decided that it wouldn't hurt anything if I played pretend on my own.

We pulled up to the door of Mrs. Norma's ranch-style home. She had made coffee and laid out a spread of doughnuts, cookies, candy, and her favorite tangerine juice. We talked and laughed for over an hour. She has led and is still living a fascinating life, filled with books, travel, men, and learning more about the internet than her teenage grand-daughter :) When we finally pried ourselves away from her cozy kitchen, we began our adventure.

We started in the open fields, where the soil still maintained that crunchy give beneath our feet, wrought from a lifetime of farming followed by many seasons of inactivity. As we sauntered from one field to the next, we found that each held its own beauty. One was open and expansive and seemed the perfect spot for a house with a huge yard. The next had a quiet pond, and seemed shielded from the road...maybe this would be the best spot for a house? THEN, we turned a corner and found ourselves in THE field. Closed in by thick trees on three sides, this spot called out, offering shelter and exclusiveness to the future home that dwells only in our minds at present. We quickly discovered that, by clearing the underbrush and smaller trees from one of the "walls" of our sanctuary, you would be able to see the Little Choctahatchee flowing right in front of our home. Investigation into another "wall" revealed a one-room hunters cabin, built on stilts. I asked Jeremiah if there was any greater boyhood dream that we could fulfill for our boys than offering them their own get-away cabin. He laughed and said we would make greater memories than that in that little cabin, since it would be the perfect place for our family to live while we built our house. I am still not sure if he was kidding about that, but I hope he was.

We finally tore ourselves away from the homestead field, and began the adventurous part of our excursion through the woods. While there is a lot to be said for seeing land on horseback, there is also something to be said for seeing it on foot. On foot, you can squeeze through tight brush, that you could never ask your horse to push through. You can stop and enjoy your surroundings, without constantly pulling back on your horse, who is invariably ready for the next phase of the ride. So, we saw places that we didn't experience on that first trip. A cedar and white oak swamp, that stood eerily still and whispered its mesmerizing beauty. An expanse of forest where the trees formed a close-knit canopy, and didn't allow any undergrowth to crop up from the ground. Areas of the river, 150 ft wide, where age-old trees stretched their branches from either side of the bank until they kissed, merging together their two sides. At one spot, we found a fresh-water spring gurgling up from the ground and sending a quiet stream to the river. We each stuck our hand (I a bit more timidly than Jeremiah) into the dark depths and felt the autonomy of its power. I am sure Jeremiah was dreaming of one day, but I was pretending that I was an explorer, seeing these beautiful sights with a virgin eye. I was being allowed the first glimpse at their beauty, God and I were the only two witnesses of this perfect creation in my mind.

Finally, our walk ended as the forest thinned out and we saw Mrs. Norma's ranch-style home in the distance. My hair and sweater were full of leaves, my jeans had taken on a tear from the brambles, and my hands had not been spared from several stickers. My heart, however, was filled with excitement. It seemed that each step had revealed something even more beautiful along our journey, and I was constantly reminded of the way C.S. Lewis described heaven's exponentially growing beauty in The Last Battle, "Farther up and farther in!" Jeremiah and I had spent an afternoon dreaming (or pretending :)) together, and I don't think there is any exercise more healthy for a marriage than that. After all, that is one of the big differences between a marriage and other close friendships. In a marriage, you share a life and a future, and you get to dream your dreams together.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Dreaming Together (Part 1)

Since the beginning of our dating relationship, we have dreamed together of the land we would own one day. I remember one particular conversation, on the bus ride to his Sigma Nu formal, sharing our ideas about what made land beautiful. WATER, was one area where we were both in agreement. Whether it was a hot spring, a raging river, or a trickling creek, we both agreed that land was just not worth having if there was no water on it. These land dreams started, for me, as something that I would cherish more because it was Jeremiah's ambition than my own. Then, a little over a year ago, we took a horseback ride on a sweet lady's land (who is friends with Jeremiah's family) and during that ride, owning land suddenly became MY dream too. That day we rode through open fields, picked our way through bramble-filled forests, and took in the quiet lakes, but most importantly we rode through the waters.

Mossy Creek, with its shallow trickling waters and white sand bed, runs for a couple of miles through the heart of this expanse of land. We (Dr. Maddox, Tommy, Josh, Ashley, Alex, Jeremiah, and me) started at the property line in the creek and were able to enjoy her beautiful land by horseback. There was not a face on the ride that could hold in its smile. There was such an invigorating energy that came from the horses as they galloped through the water, splashing each other and us. There was so much beauty in the way the sunlight turned the water into liquid gold around us. There was so much freedom in experiencing nature from the strong back of nature itself.

Then, we came to the point where Mossy Creek joins the Little Choctahatchee River. The white sand suddenly disappeared into the cool green current of the river. It seemed to be forever offering its humble contribution to the river's mighty flow. A sort of deep swimming hole had formed at that point in the river, and we held the horses still and drank in the beauty of that spot. Through the fun and the beauty of that ride a year ago, a seed was planted in our (Jeremiah's and mine) heats. A craving for a bit of land to call our own, and a flourish for that land in particular.

So, we have prayed over that land for the past year. There have been times when I have been so anxious that the land would sell before Jeremiah finished residency, I've thought my heart would burst. It may seem like a dramatic comparison, but it has really reminded me of the earnest prayers I used to offer to God over finding a husband. I dated one guy who I thought hung the moon. I had him on such a pedestal, that I told my Dad that I knew, if I didn't marry THAT guy, I would spend the rest of my life knowing I had just settled for someone else. Oh, the dramas of a lovesick teenage girl! I know now that God must have been chuckling at the turn He had in store for me, because He had someone planned who was SO much more perfect for me in Jeremiah. He took the traits that I valued in the guy, magnified the good, softened the rough edges, and gave him a love that spoke perfectly to my heart. So, that is what I have tried to remind myself of during my anxious times about this land. I know the Lord intimately understands the desires of our hearts, and if this land I've worked myself into a fervor over isn't what He has in store, then whatever land He does have will be even more perfectly suited for us.

This really isn't the story I wanted to write about today, because Jeremiah and I re-visited that coveted land last week. However, this is getting long, so I think I'll just name this Part 1 and tell the rest of the story later.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Long Time No Talk

I can't believe it's already been a week and a half since I posted last. As most anyone knows who is reading this, it has been an overwhelming week and a half. Apparently, when I wrote "Daffodils" God was preparing me for some even colder rain. However, in His infinite mercy He also spread a little sunshine.

As far as the rain goes, I think I'll just list it out: Mom's cancer is apparently back. There is "multiple disease" in her abdomen. She is supposed to hear a course of action from her doctor here in Birmingham today or tomorrow, and she and Dad are flying to Houston on Thursday to talk to her doctor there. We are all doing well, and trying to submit to God's sovereignty while waiting for her long-promised healing.

Jeremiah had his tonsils out, and if you still have yours, then I recommend holding onto them. He has been determined to keep living life to the fullest, right down to eating cheeseburgers, and has suffered greatly because of it. His worst days have been post-op day 5 and 6 (we are only on 7 now) and I thought we should be well into the healing stage at this point.

Mimi (my Dad's mom) had a heart attack Saturday night. She is doing well, but they had to put in 3 stints.

Now the sunshine: We are having another BABY!!

Whew! Are you as breathless as I am? Every day, I pray through these and other trials and joys, and then I find that I just have to leave it all at Jesus' feet. It's too heavy to carry, so I leave it there with Him and keep living life.

I want to share one neat moment and then I have to get busy. I experienced what felt like an actual hug from God. We found out about Mom on Friday (the 9th), and on Saturday I was feeling the need to be close to someone. Jeremiah was sitting in his chair at the computer desk, practicing a song the he and Ashley were supposed to sing at church the next day. I climbed into his lap and pressed my forehead against his cheek. He was learning the harmony, so I quietly began to sing the melody along with him. As we sat there, the words that I had been listening to all day without really hearing began to seep into my heart.

Your grace still amazes me. Your love, is still a mystery. Each day, I fall on my knees, because your grace still amazes me.

Even though my heart felt open and bare with fear for mom, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by God's grace. I felt my husband who loves me pressing me close. I saw our beautiful and healthy little girl playing contentedly on the floor. I felt the ever-present gift of a new baby, a new life being knit together. His grace still amazes me.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Cold Plus Rain Equals Daffodils

It seems like, lately, I've heard a lot of bad news. Lauren's little girl got really sick in the night, and Lauren had to see her precious baby go stiff and lifeless. Her face turned white, her lips blue, and she wasn't breathing. They had to call 911. Natalie is going to be perfectly fine, but I know Lauren still has that haunting image and feeling of panic and helplessness stuck in her mind. It's stuck in my mind, and I wasn't even there.

Whitney's best friend at work, Meg, had a baby girl yesterday. I have been excited to hear how everything went for Meg and Craig. The delivery went great, but then they found out that there little girl has Downs Syndrome. My heart just hurts for them. The utter surprise, the dread of all the mean people in the world who might hurt your cherished child's feelings, the responsibility of caring for a disabled child...all of these concerns have sat heavy on my chest.

Jeremiah told me about a nurse he works with having a baby at St. Vincents and almost dying because her care was so poor. She started hemorrhaging and it took her doctor 4 hours to make his way to her. She demanded to be immediately transferred to UAB, and she is convinced that UAB doctors saved her life.

Finally, my Dad drove to pick my sister up from AU in the middle of the night last night because she was so sick. She was admitted to the hospital this morning, but they still aren't sure what is wrong with her.

All in all, I have been feeling borderline clinically depressed. However, there are 3 things that are helping me cope. First is the fact that I know God is sovereign. That's a blanket statement Christians like to throw over bad situations, but it is true. We serve the all-powerful God of the universe and He doesn't owe us an explanation for all He allows to happen in this sin-filled world. All we have to know is that there is a reason, and that He hates to see us hurting.

Second, is the way that Whitney's friend Meg has handled her situation. Since Whitney told me what happened, I've been trying to imagine myself dealing with that same hurt...It wasn't a pretty picture. Meg, however, said something that really touched my heart, "Whitney, we are honored that God sees a strength in Craig and I to handle this situation. We don't see it, but He must." She also said that her joy over her new baby, makes the grief look small.

Finally, there are the daffodils that are blooming just outside my back door. I didn't plant them, but every winter after cold and rain have long dominated our days, these friendly little faces open up and sing of the springtime to come. They bring me joy, and remind me that God has to bring some cold and some rain so that eventually we can bloom a little brighter for Him.

Monday, February 5, 2007

The Secret Garden

I just finished reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I bought a copy with a copyright from 1938, that was apparently a Christmas gift "from Nan-Nan to Carol" in 1944. The cover is a pale blue, with a little wear on the edges. The pages are slightly yellowed, and there are some beautiful color drawings scattered throughout the text. I love this book. I love the way it looks, the way it feels heavy and substantial in my hands, and the sweet story it contains. I love that when I would curl up and open its pages to start reading, there was a cold, wet scent from undoubtedly living unappreciated in someones basement. Now, I've rescued this little treasure and given it a good reading. I know it was delighted to be found of use again.

I started this book, unsure of whether I had read it or not. The plot sounded familiar, but I couldn't be sure if I'd read it or just heard about it. As I started the first chapter, I knew immediately that I was re-visiting old territory. The book opens with Mary, a spoiled and sickly little English girl who is the main character, being left alone in her nursery because the entire household has been killed by the cholera without her realizing what was happening. This chapter had a real effect on me as a child...The thought of losing my Mom and my Dad at the same time, and without realizing what was happening! As I read chapter one, those same terrified feelings from childhood cropped back up in my mind. I don't know if it was because the first couple of chapters scared me so bad, or if I started reading this book at too young an age to stay interested through all 300 something pages, but I know I never finished it. I know I never experienced all the majesty this book has to offer, because I couldn't have forgotten it. I have started writing a short synapse in the front of books I have just finished, in hopes that they will jog my memory in years to come. So, I will conclude with my synapse:

Such a sweet, sweet story. I can't wait to read it to our children one day! It proves the necessity of fresh air and exercise for a healthy life. It shows the ugliness of being spoiled, and the joy that comes from thinking of others. It could make anyone desperate for their own "little piece of earth" to make beautiful. All in all, I loved it so much that I read it in 3 days!

Friday, February 2, 2007

It's Official. I Have Become My Mother.

When you get married you start to notice some little nuances that you've carried over from your parents. Little things like the way I load the dishwasher, or fold the laundry, or never finish one task because I remember the 13 others I need to be working on. Big things like the way I handle conflicts with Jeremiah, or who I expect to handle the finances, or what I expect our evenings will be like when he gets home from work.

Then you have babies, and you start to notice that you picked up a great deal more from your mother in particular. Phrases come out of your mouth that you didn't even know you remembered, "Eat you carrots and you'll have strong eyes!", "What did Mama say???", "Green beans will make you strong, like Popeye!", "Night, night, sleep tight, don't let the bed-bugs bight", "Do you want me to give'em a spankin'?"(This was said about any inanimate object that caused us to heart our self). These and other little nuggets from childhood crop-up and remind you of your mom.

I was OK with all of these inheritances. Some I would like to work on (like the way Jeremiah and I disagree), but all in all I was happy with these short visits to my childhood. Then, today, I found myself casually making the bed NAKED. :) This is probably something that most of you don't know about Mom (unless you are one of my sisters or Dad), but growing up Mom did a lot of little things around the house without any clothes on. As a young child I didn't really notice, I mean wouldn't all young children rather be without clothes than with them? But at some age you do start to notice and then at another age you start to get a little embarrassed. "Moooommm !!" my sisters and I would say and roll our eyes. She would smile but never offer an explanation. It was just her. If Dad was home, he would say, "Becky, you're too big'a girl to be walkin' around here naked." However, he always said this with a bit too big of a smile on his face :)

So, I had forgotten about Mom's nakedness until today, when I found myself making our bed without a stitch of clothes on. I didn't understand why she did it then, but I think I do now. First of all, it's just me and Pace, just the girls, and since she never had a boy I don't guess there was ever a reason to be shy about it. Second of all, and I think this is the key, you just get distracted. Most days, I am stepping out of the shower when Pace wakes up. Like I am going to take the time to get dressed when she is crying for me to come get her. Then, I dry my hair (which is too hot for winter clothes), and by that time Pace is ready for lunch. While she's eating I rush to make the bed since she's distracted.... Before I know it, I have morphed into my Mom. Doing what I do, without any clothes. I can see now that this is probably exactly how it started for her, and before long, she probably didn't even notice anymore. So, if you're planning on dropping by our house in the middle of the day, just make sure you knock first :)