Resurrection on 287

I’ve seen 
the broken down house
on highway 287  


cinderblock walls, 
only rafters left for a roof,
a gaping hole where
a once presentable 
exterior used to be.


When I drive by
my broken down heart—
though jaded and cynical
by all accounts—
is filled with brutal 
longing.


I fantasize
about pulling the car over
and rushing to what was once
the doorway and running
my hands over ruined 
cinderblocks and wood
until the love of the place
would change it
like a Resurrection—
a new house from these
crumbled cinderblocks.


maybe this is how I know
I really do believe
in all things
made new—


one day—
my heart like
the cinder block house,
all coarse and rough will be
smoothed out with sandpaper
the walls rebuilt to safety,
the shutters painted,
the door flung recklessly wide—
(because being whole and loved
will do that to you.)


and what meals we will share!
in a kitchen once marked by 
ash and rubble,
with fruits from the garden
growing wild out back 
just because it can
there is nothing to stop it.


The ruined house 
on 287 reminds me of
what sometimes seems
so terribly easy 
to forget—


that
I really do believe
in the Resurrection. 

Anything & Everything

did it hurt?

when Thomas put his child-like
hand into your spear-torn
side—the only cure
for his grown-up unbelief? 


2,000 years later
my twins dig their toes
into the wrinkled skin
of my belly stretch marked
by my love and their growth.
	(I don’t mind it so much—)
but it hurts when the tips
of tiny toes find the edges
of the scar from whence
Jordan came and
sometimes I still feel 
the zip of the scalpel
across my tender skin
and I feel afraid. 


but they seem to seek it
like a reassurance,
like a firm place to stand 
amidst a sea of softness.
	(to be feminine is not all 
	softness—there is no one more 
	ferocious than a mother.)	

as if Nathan is trying to remember 
the way I roared him earth side 
with a power like the tide.

as if Jordan is seeking the strength
with which I held on to hope,
to consciousness, to her—
amidst incredible pain.

as if my scar, like an anchor
holds their four tiny feet fast
to this one truth:
I would do anything. 


And I think of Jesus 2000 years ago
his heart broken for the world
then and now— his heart 
aching for his friends, 
Judas’ betrayal still sharp
as a spear jabbing his mind—
his hand tracing the place
where thorns tore the forehead
his mother used to kiss goodnight
as they mocked him—
the memory of the pain
on her beloved face as she stood
there watching him die—
the agony of that last
shallow breath—

	this Jesus 
offers his torn open body to Thomas:
like a drink of living water;
like a mother with a milk-stained shirt,
and an open wound, 
and a bleeding body
coming for the crying child
in the dark of night with this
reassurance, this one truth: 
I would do anything. 


did it hurt? 

is the ache still there somedays? 
in your glorified body
where you chose 
to keep your scars?

2,000 years ago 
Thomas ran his clumsy fingers
across the edges of your wounds, 
and at last the proof sparked 
the flame in his eyes—
the light of a child believing
	at last 
in his own belovedness.


and here I am
grasping for the strength
of a child-like belief. 
digging my toes in
to this weighty anchor 
of a love that did everything.

the difference

I think I know now
how the disciples felt
as they watched the backs 
of Judas and Jesus
amidst the clutch
of Roman spears.

The betrayal so sharp
& stabbing, like a spear
between the ribs
like a man hauling 
himself up on nails 
to get a breath—
to ask for a drink.

Were you giving us vinegar
when we asked for wine? 

Could we really 
not tell 
the difference? 

On Muscle Memory, Grief & the Rhythms that ground us

THE INVITATION

“Do you want to go on an adventure with me?” 

His question hung like a held breath in the space between us. We lay beneath the sheets in the privacy of our bedroom on a warm summer night, the luminous glow of our cell phone screens awaiting our final electronic signatures on a contract for a house—a house that was two hours by car, and yet somehow a world away. 

“I’m scared.” 

“I know. I am too.” His finger hovers over the space on the form marked ‘X’. “Let’s go on an adventure honey,” he says.

“Okay,” I say. 

And with the last tap of a finger on a screen, everything was about to change. 

Our life had already been turned upside down to say the least. In the fall of 2020, I became pregnant for the fourth time. But a few months into the pregnancy, I began to realize something was different. I was short of breath, my nausea was requiring medication, and by 18 weeks my belly button had already turned itself inside out. When I woke from a startling dream one night, the flutterings I was feeling on either side of my abdomen seemed to confirm that there was indeed more to this pregnancy than one small child turning somersaults in my womb.

“That’s two…there are TWO babies.” My midwife announced. 

“Oh my gosh…TWO babies?” My husband’s voice cracked. 

“I’m not crazy!” I proclaimed—this ultrasound only confirming what God and my gut had been  telling me the past few weeks. 

A few more months and dozens of doctor’s appointments later they were here: our precious boy/girl twins—swaddled and snuggled next to each other in the tiny crib two feet from the end of our bed. We could hear their softly shared breath, precious and close in the dark of our room at night. At two weeks in, we were learning to discern which child it was that was crying, and I was learning to breastfeed them in tandem. Meanwhile, we were also recovering from one of the most traumatic experiences of our entire lives. Those first few weeks my husband and I wept together more than we ever have before. Let’s just say, their birth was not the peaceful or joyful affair I had been hoping and praying for. 

So it wasn’t as though our life had become terribly dull and we needed a change. We weren’t sitting around bored looking for a challenge—tandem feeding two infants for hours upon hours every day was hard enough. Managing the household and three other rambunctious children was quite enough. And yet, adventure knocked on our doorstep in the form of a house listing in our inbox. I was surprised to hear that my husband Willy had encouraged my Mom to go and see this beautiful house in person. She had been sending us house listings in our inbox on and off for nearly five years, an exercise in patience and persistence if there ever was one, but in all those years, never once had we had her go look at a house for us. Yet this home, nestled between a creek and a green hill in the Kiowa Creek Valley, somehow caught more than just our passing attention. 

“They are reviewing offers this weekend,” my Mom told me as she chatted with us after the showing. I sat on our dirty blue sofa in my increasingly cramped 1,000 square foot home which I now shared with six other people, and I knew our days here were numbered. We had known that the whole pregnancy truly. At some point before the twins turned one we would need to look for a bigger place. The twins barely had a corner crib to call their own, let alone a nursery. There was quite literally not enough floor space for two more beds anywhere in the house unless we were to give up on having any sort of living room.

 I looked at this beautiful home on the computer screen with a full basement and imagined my five children erecting elaborate cities in pillow forts, or constructing vast train tracks. I looked at the large back yard and imagined the green hill behind us covered in snow and perfect for sledding. I imagined my children growing up just down the road from their grandparents and my heart swelled.

“What do you think?” I asked my husband. 

We had asked each other this question half a dozen times already. 

“I don’t know. What do you think?”

 We stared at each other, each of us rocking a baby in our arms. 

“I want to put in an offer,” I said. “Just to see. Maybe this is the new season we’ve been asking God for.” 

THE WEIGHT OF MUSCLE MEMORY 

The first thing I noticed was that the locks turned the opposite way; and not just on the back or the front doors. Even the bathroom doors were a reverse arrangement of what I was used to at the place I still thought of as “home.” Our first house, christened “Lady Gray” by my eldest daughter and me, held lovely trees, a spacious lawn, and a built out garden area we used almost as soon as we moved in. It was the first truly successful garden I ever had. There we planted a peach tree we christened “Fergie.” There we let the weeds share space with the grass and discovered the joy of self-sowing Cosmos in the garden bed, and the miracle of asparagus in the spring. It was a sweet place for us—an oasis in the midst of a desert season. And our muscles had grown used to the way you needed to use a little hip pressure to open the front door. We were used to keeping the back door shut in summer, because the little house that faced east, left her backside to bake in the late afternoon heat, and even with the heavy wooden door closed the laundry nook felt like a sauna. We were familiar with the need to keep the attic fan running in the summer, and how quickly the furnace could heat up the cold rooms in winter when you were feeling a bit chilled. I knew my favorite eyes on the stove for each dish I liked to cook. I knew how to make best use of the extremely limited counter space. The first two years I even learned the muscle memory required of life with small children and no dishwasher; though we finally got one the year after I had given birth to our third child. In my tiny kitchen, the turn from the stove and the tap to fill my copper tea kettle was as familiar to me as a breath—

BREATHE IN—lift the kettle and pivot towards the sink.

BREATHE OUT—open the lid and turn on the tap.

BREATHE IN—lean your hip on the counter to fill the kettle.

BREATHE OUT—replace the lid, turn again, flip on the turbo boil. 

During the year 2020, when our worlds all became increasingly small, even as we felt apart of the global chaos of the pandemic, sometimes it was this rhythm of tea that kept me sane. The familiar motions grounding me like tethers in a world that felt fractured and unstable. To return to God, and a sense of sacred settledness in my spirit on any given day, all I had to do was make tea. Now all of this familiarity had fallen away, and what I was left with was grief. 

GROUNDING RHYTHMS

It was the day after our big move, and my hands were busy searching for my copper kettle. I had sifted through box after haphazardly labeled box, to no avail. In the chaotic flurry of our move, all my best intentions for an organized and smooth transition seemed to have gone awry. I suppose, with two tiny infants and three older kids there was only so much I could do as I presided over the packing of the home in which I had spent the last four years. But here on the other side of this move, my tea kettle was missing, and my anxiety was rising.

“Where is it?” I demanded of myself, and of the new kitchen in chaos. All the cabinet space in the world felt meaningless in that moment. I stumbled out the backdoor to the detached garage to see if any wayward kitchen boxes had ended up on the shelf by mistake, the labels from the previous person’s move having confused more than one of our moving-day-helpers. As I picked my way along the weedy pea gravel path, I thought about something I heard once about phantom limbs; how those who have suffered a terrible injury resulting in an amputation still feel the missing limb sometimes, as if it were still there. But it cannot be accessed or used, and it hurts sometimes, they say. I think about how trying to move a limb that isn’t there must feel like the rudest reminder of the pain. A muscle memory that is detached from the muscles it once served. I wonder if that is a little like this. 

All the optimistic and cheerful parts of me want to say I’ve been transplanted—that I am like Fergie, the peach tree we planted three years ago on a rainy day in a Colorado spring. I want to say that I am fresh from a too-small pot, and my roots are a bit beat up and I’ve had to cut them in places, but it’s for their good. So that they can re-grow in the new soil, with just a little water, sun, and time. I want to say that it’s as easy and straightforward as sliding this plant into a new hole, a new home. One that I’m sure will be even more fruitful than the last. 

But instead, I feel this move like an amputation in so many ways. And though I know that there were things that were sickly and damaged and too beyond repair in the life we were living before, I feel only the pain of the loss. I find myself wondering, am I the body? Or am I the severed limb? 

 It took four days to find it. Four days without the grounding rhythm of tea, and my favorite adaptogenic herbal coffee, and then, at last, we found it. Stashed in a box with last minute grabs and completely bereft of any label at all—my copper kettle. It was dirty from our old home still, and somehow comfortingly damp inside, as though it remembered exactly what it was for. As soon as I felt the cool of the stainless steel handle beneath my fingertips, I rushed to the tap of my kitchen sink. I flung open the small round lid, slightly dented just as it was when I bought it, and I filled it with water until the line was just below the spout. Returning the lid to its rightful place, I set the kettle on the back right burner as I always had in our previous home. And though the gas stove was still a change I was getting used to, I smiled at the familiarity of these movements and felt my feet coming firmly to rest on this new ground.

I went about preparing my tea. I filled the metal insert in my tea pot with loose-leaf catnip and chamomile for my evening nerves. When the kettle boiled, I flipped off the burner and reached for the handle, but instantly recoiled. 

“Ouch!” I exclaimed, “it’s hot.” 

The handle of my tea kettle had never been hot before. 

“It’s because it’s a gas stove,” I said to myself, running my fingers under cool water, thankful that my sleep-deprived brain still knew how to reflexively recoil from scorching heat. 

Gingerly, I grabbed a dish towel from where it hung on the oven handle, and used that to lift my kettle and pour the boiling water in my tea pot. 

“This will just take some getting used to,” I said.

And it has. 

And I have. 

NEW LIVES &  A NEW LIFE 

The twins birth was not at all what we expected. It wasn’t even what we feared. In ways I couldn’t have even imagined, it was so much worse. And I don’t know how else to explain it but to say that something broke open in us when we finally left that hospital room after what seemed like the longest day of our life. There we were, two parents who had been awake for nearly four days straight; only a cumulative six hours of sleep total over the course of those four days. I was aching from both a vaginal delivery and an emergency c-section, and we were both traumatized out of our minds. This felt like the last straw on an already heavily laden camel’s back. 

“I’m just so freaking ready for a new season!” I blurted out as we drove the highway for home, willing ourselves to talk to one another in an attempt to stay awake long enough to just get there.

“I know…me too. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but the first thing I thought after the surgery was over was, ‘I just want to go and start the farm.’” 

“Really?”

“Yeah.” 

The farm was a dream that had been brewing for a few years now, but the truth is that I think it’s been in my blood all along. In the fall of 2019, my parents purchased a gorgeous new property in Elizabeth Colorado and declared that this was their forever home. We couldn’t have been more thrilled. The house was quirky and fun, with plenty of large windows and a loft with a chalkboard that had my kids enthused. But it was the land that drew me in—thirty-two acres of green rolling hills, a creek, and trees galore. I could feel the potential in my bones the moment we first walked down the hill behind the house to the creek bed, which still held water, even in October. It was a magical place where we knew our dreams of starting a farm could finally come true. But we weren’t sure how we were going to get down there. There were so many pieces that needed to fall into place for us to begin making this place of which we had been dreaming. Then out of seemingly nowhere, this house appeared like a handwritten invitation from God.

 It’s time. 

Really? With two tiny nursing babies and an incision that ached and our older two kids about to start public school for the first time? 

Yes. 

Really? Leaving behind our church community and our friends and the life we’ve built for the past decade? 

Yes. It’s time. 

Laying in the dark, before the last feeding of the day and before we tried to close our eyes for whatever hours the twins would give us, my husband and I clicked the lines by the Xs and signed the contract to buy a new house. But it wasn’t just a new house. It was a new life. 

GETTING THERE 

 “We just have to get there,” I told my husband once again. We were in the throes of packing up our life, with a wife attached to two babies and marooned to the bedroom. I still wasn’t supposed to be lifting anything post c-section recovery by the time we were preparing the final push for our move. My inability to do life on my own was staggering to say the least.  My daily prayer was monotonous and repetitive;  Lord, help us to just get there. And without him, we wouldn’t have. Over the course of the one month contract there were innumerable times when it all could have, and perhaps should have, fallen apart—but it didn’t. We knew that we must be absolutely crazy. I was afraid we might have been making a terrible mistake. We kept wondering why our lender would allow such sleep deprived people to borrow money. I kept praying that if this wasn’t the right thing, that God would make it fall apart. But he didn’t. Every last thing fell into place. From my husband’s work agreeing to allow him to work mostly remote, to the financial hoops, to the friends from college that I hadn’t seen in years coming to help us pack when I was still so unable.

Then at last came the day in early September, when I piled my five children in the minivan, and to the sound track of two screaming infants, I said goodbye. I pulled out of the cracked cement driveway and drove away from the town where I had spent more than a decade, and nearly all of my adult life. The town where my husband had asked me to marry him. The town where we brought all five of our precious children home from the hospital. The town that still held my friends who had become like family. As I turned onto the highway for the last time, the grief nearly overwhelmed me. But there was also this peace—and a strange sense of release and surrender. 

EMBRACING NEW RHYTHMS

We’ve been here for seven months now. The twins are eight months old and throwing banana bits on the linoleum floor. We have discovered which parts of our gravel driveway will get icy if we neglect to pull out the snowblower, and that our wood stove may be the singular best thing about this house. We have painted the upstairs bedrooms and the basement, and even most recently undertaken a kitchen renovation. And what was once foreign and a hiccup in my daily ritual of tea, has now become second nature, a muscle memory once again. I no longer have to remind myself to grab the hot pad before I reach for my copper kettle; I do it automatically. And with the familiarity of my daily tea rituals once again restored to me, I am beginning to see that perhaps I am the peach tree after all, and not the severed limb. 

This season of transition has been one of the hardest of my entire life. I’m still not sure how long it will take to truly feel at home here, but I can finally imagine a future in which I will feel that way someday. After all this time, sometimes I still turn the locks the wrong direction. I still look for glasses in the cupboard to the left of the sink, because that was where I had them in our previous home. Perhaps this muscle memory is a reminder to grieve. Some things have been lost forever—things more significant than glasses, or locks, or tea kettle rituals. On my better days, I allow myself to be sad. Moving forward and on into a beautiful new future, does not preclude my need to thoroughly grieve all that has gone before: both the good and the bad. I grieve the good because it was good; and that good is no more. I grieve for the bad we experienced right before we came to this place, our new oasis, because it hurts and I wish it had never been. 

 Change has always been a struggle for me, but I can’t stay stuck in the rhythms of the past no matter how beneficial they were for me at one point in time. It would be foolishness for me to continue to try and grab the handle of my kettle without the benefit of a hot pad. It is an old rhythm that would now only bring me harm. Muscle memory can help us with so much; our bodies remember the rhythms and traditions of safety and security, of work and of rest; but just because I have always done things a certain way before, does not mean that I can, or should do those things in that way forever. My new rhythms and new muscle memories are here to help me make the most of the life I am now living, even as my old impulses remind me of what I am still grieving.

Holding two squirmy babies at the same time no longer feels impossible to me. I am gaining a muscle memory for dropping the kids at their new school. I have learned already how to walk through the back door, and avoid the hanging jackets and the piles of shoes that so easily overtake our laundry/mudroom at the backdoor. I know how to turn on the lamps as the sun sets in the autumn, and how to open the curtains at first light in the spring. I know how to thread my way from our bedroom to the twins nursery in the middle of the night. This spring, I will gain a muscle memory for sitting in the rockers on my front porch, for watering the flowers that I am already plotting to plant, and for packing lunches for our summer mornings spent working at the farm. And perhaps there will be peach trees here too. And I perhaps I will cut their roots, and prune their branches, and thin the dime sized spring fruit—and it won’t feel like a cruelty. 

Peace in this new place I am seeing, comes through surrender. Surrender to the good plan of the God who brought us here. Surrender to the process of grieving. Surrender to the process of dealing with the trauma I have experienced in the past, sifting through the painful memories with a dogged determination to find the scraps of light I know are buried there. Surrender also, to the incredible joy of the moments right in front of me—to dance parties in the kitchen, and the cheesy knock-knock jokes of my children, and the way my babies skin feels like satin against my lips.  

In this new place and new season that I deeply longed for, yet never expected—perhaps the greatest new grounding rhythm I can create is the one in which I open my hands. Perhaps my greatest muscle memory is the one in which I turn towards the light, wherever it may be found. 

while it is still dark

before golden light crests the hill behind my house,
I see a dozen small sparrows hopping through the shallow snow
in the predawn dark of my backyard. 


they are bold—almost cheeky, as they peck their way
through the dry grass & weeds & shriveled crabapples
that have fallen from our tree.


I have heard that He is aware of every feather & flap  
& not one has fallen apart from His notice.
I realize He must know which weeds provide the best seeds
& He plants these in summer’s abundant heat. 


these dozen small sparrows do not wonder 
who will feed them their daily bread.
it is still dark while they sing their songs of joyful trust,
knowing a feast has already been prepared.  


then there’s me—with my tear stained face  
pressed to the ice cold window pane
hoping & praying, for a small sparrow’s faith. 





Header Photo c/o Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

let me hope like dandelions

let me hope like dandelions—
obtrusive and resilient, resistant to a fault.

let me resist all that tries to divest me of my joy,
of my glory in future songs. 

let my hope spring careless of road sides,
or dung heaps, or patches of dry grass.

let it rush up from the tiniest seeds
carried on winds or birds wings. 

let it overwhelm everything else. 
let it dominate all that now grows wild. 

let it creep in under cover of darkness
and sow itself in places least expected.

let me hope like dandelions
and nothing (I mean nothing), could ever stop me. 







©Grace Kelley 2022

Photo by Олександр К on Unsplash

(I must have missed) Dancing

I want to find
my way back
to the girl 
whose lust for life 
made her splash
in rain puddles

whose love 
made her free
as all the birds 
she watched 
flying south. 

Lately, 
I’ve been dancing 
in my kitchen. 
And I say
it makes me feel sexy,
but what I really mean is
that it makes me feel alive. 

	Have I
	been gone
	so long? 

A dead heart
in a chest still breathing?
forgetting 
how to laugh—
forgetting 
what it means
to exist where both 
joy and sorrow do? 

I knew that girl once: 
the puddle dancer
always laughed 
at lightning. 

	& I loved her—
	for all her joy
	full innocence.
 

Then I was made to watch 
as the rain 
drowned her out.

All at once it became deep
too deep
to splash in. 

For one
terrible
moment
	she went under.

But now,
through clumsy steps 
on my kitchen floor
I find I’m teaching her 
to live again. 

Now I find,
I’m teaching her 
                         to dance 
           upon the waves. 





(Image c/o Dyana Wing So on Unsplash)

Glory’s Overshadowing

(an advent poem) 

Look there! 
Through the trees
Glory’s overshadowing
covers those living
under the shadow of death— 
& the One who conceived 
constellations & comets—
giving them birth with a shout
of joy is himself conceived & formed
in a womb he made out of dust. 


See now! 
He who labored to lay low
ocean floors & raise up horizons
lay low in the pelvis of a woman 
laboring long amongst the ewes 
bleating with their newborn lambs
these other mothers of sacrifice.


Hear how her sighs 
signaled the shattering of sorrows
as he who was emerged at last—
in water, blood & vernix
swirling like the milky way.
Mary’s tears of relief
—a prophecy of longing & of joy.


Listen!
His first cry signaled it was safe 
to hope again, as he lay 
in a feeding trough
the cut grass beneath him 
smelling of both life & death—
of a sacramental feast.
Like the bread of life rising
from grains crushed to dust—
like the stars long dead 
still shouting in the silence
	“GLORIA! He’s here!”


You could hear them for miles!
The great hosts of heaven 
belting with a boom like thunder
	“GLORIA! He’s here!”
		How terrifying!
these songs of glory & peace
must have sounded to these least of these 
shepherds stood aghast
until at last, they too saw the babe
wrapped in swaddles as foretold.
		the holiest in the lowliest—
and you could see it 
in their awestruck faces
		this story is too strange 
                to be a lie—
		who could conceive it?


Watch them bolt through city streets, 
their feet pounding out 
the sound of joy pouring out 
of their dry lips
	“GLORIA! —He’s here!”


who could conceive?
of God wrapped in fragile flesh—
	“GLORIA!
	He’s hereat last.”

(Image c/o Grayson Joralemon on Unsplash)

What the skin of my belly knows

As I look down at my ever expanding belly—at the marks which stretch across my skin like red lightning bolts, joining with the other silver marks from earlier growing seasons with other children—I can’t help but think about how love is always expanding us. 

I think when I was younger, I was afraid that if I loved with all my heart any one person, there wouldn’t be anything left. There wouldn’t be any of me left to give. And of course there is wisdom in knowing limits and setting boundaries; but this does not apply to those I have been given to tend, to love, to grow. 

It changes based on the season. Before I had kids, I was a young married college student with a Mother’s heart—and God told me I didn’t have to wait to be a mom to nurture and nourish those in my life. 

So I began inviting people for dinner, and cups of peppermint tea. I carried Ibuprofen in my backpack in case my headache prone friend from Pilates class forgot hers at home. I began seeing people more clearly—because the truest heart of a Mother is one who sees and understands the child better than anyone else. She is first and foremost a student of those for whom she is given to care. 

***

Yesterday my daughter was out of sorts. She had been short with her brother’s all of breakfast, she was getting annoyed about the tangles in her hair and was convinced that she didn’t have anything to wear. (She’s 7.) And in a moment of wisdom that I wish was more common than rare, I asked her to sit by me and tell me what was really bothering her. I boiled the water and made her a cup of black cherry tea, and I tried to listen to the heart in front of me instead of only seeing the irritating struggle and unpleasant behavior. 

It turns out, she was under the weight of grief. For some reason that morning she was worrying about the day she would someday move out and leave home. She was telling me that she didn’t want to leave me, that she was afraid to go out into the world on her own. I told her, I thought that when the time came she would be more than ready, but that I would never make her go. 

“You can live with me as long as you want,” I said. “You can go to college from home, you can live here into your twenties when you have a job—you can stay as long as you want. It’s not my job to kick you out—as your Mom, my job is to let you go when you are ready.” And there were tears in my eyes of course as I told my highly independent daughter that the day she moves out will probably be one of the hardest days of my life. This seemed to comfort her, as a love strong enough to break a heart always does. 

As I find myself thinking more and more about the Mother Love of God lately, I think about moments like these. Moments of wisdom and tenderness; the reassurance that comes from being heard and your heart held. I think about how God has already been preparing me to do the hard work of letting go. 

My mother’s heart attaches easily to those it cares for. My college-pre-kid days are no different than now. The people I let into my deepest heart’s circle, the place I reserve for those for whom I truly and deeply care, have had to leave me often. Be it a job change across country, a drifting apart that neither of us can seem to control, or perhaps a more painful rift that has broken between us—I sometimes feel like a woman who has lost too much. It makes me want to close down. To shut the door. To stop letting the love and the loss pour in and out like the tide.

But I’m learning that whatever the season, perhaps it is my job to love without constraints, no matter the pain. To dish the soup and pour the tea. To cut the sandwiches in triangle halves and pick out any less than perfect grapes—and still be the one standing on the porch waving with a smile, and tears in my eyes saying, “Come back anytime. You can come back anytime.” 

***

These loves don’t make me less me. These losses hurt, but they don’t take away from who I am. Because true love expands. Love grows us and stretches us beyond what we could hold before. And yes it leaves us scarred—but not in the way you think. It leaves us larger as we remember that we too are the child being fed and held; the soul God loves and listens to with patience and attention. We are the ones coming and going, our Father & Mother God on the front porch waving with a smile and tears in his eyes saying, “Come back anytime. You can come back anytime.”  

The skin of my belly knows, there is power in a love that is strong enough to break you—like flashes of lighting cutting through gathering clouds in the hot and humid summer sky. 

Photo c/o Arteida MjESHTRI on Unsplash

What love looks like

“I love the way you salt things,” he says to me as I stand over the heat of the cast iron pan at the kitchen stove. “It’s so cute. You’re like a chef.” He gives my shoulder a rub and passes by me on his way to settle a sibling dispute.

Later, he rubs my sore lower back while we watch an old sitcom in bed and says, “I love you pregnant. You’re so round and beautiful.”

I look over my shoulder at him, rubbing a hand over the two hearts and two sets of fluttering feet in my twin belly and say “Really? You really think I’m beautiful like this?” He smiles and nods and I say, “Well good. You’d better keep thinking that though, I’m not sure my body will ever be the same after this.”

He laughs and says “I will.”

“Do you promise?” I say with mock sternness, but real hormonal tears budding in my eyes.

“I promise,” he says without humor in his blue eyes, and the kindness in his smile reaches the new lines by his beloved eyes. And for once, I think I may actually believe him.

This is what love in year eleven of our marriage looks like. When we married, we were kids who had begun to grow up together, like two small trees reaching towards the great blue sky, not knowing how high it really was, not knowing where they’d end up, but letting our roots weave together deep in the earth—inseparable and intertwined, for better or worse.

We’ve seen both; better and worse. We’ve broken our promises and made them anew. We’ve hurt each other and failed to love well when push came to shove. We’ve pulled away and numbed, when we should have pulled together. These years have not been without their pain or struggles; in fact, they’ve been chalk full of them sometimes—so full we didn’t know how we’d ever be able to carry it.

I am not the girl my blonde haired blue-eyed husband married eleven years ago. The darkening of his hair and the growing of his beard is not the only change in this man I married eleven years ago. But our love has grown and changed and healed us in ways that have brought us closer to Jesus, as well as to each other. This is the grace I’m seeing now—when I look at a photo from us nine years ago still in our newlywed years and think; I loved him so much then. But it’s nothing compared to how I feel about him now. Even though there were times over these past eleven years, when I wondered if we really loved each other at all.

Now our love looks like me telling my husband that all his open tabs on our shared laptop stress me out, because I’m not sure which ones he’s okay with me closing and too many tabs makes my mind swirl with anxiety—and a few days later I open my computer to see a tab at the top: “Willy’s Tabs 🙂 ” under which are hidden from my easily overwhelmed eyes, the plentiful research he has been doing to know how to replace my mini-van’s busted alternator.

Our love looks like my husband buying me a new hose attachment to make watering my flower beds easier on my pregnant back. It looks like me picking up a six pack of a favorite beer from the store for him to enjoy with the first game of the NHL playoffs. It looks like me cooking dinner, and he doing the dishes. It looks like being the one to volunteer to clean up the toddler’s pee puddle off the living room floor. It looks like my husband reading pages and pages of health insurance legalese to see if we can afford to have one of my midwives attend what is now going to be a very expensive hospital birth. It looks like me reading the bedtime story, and him telling me not to climb into the boy’s bunk beds anymore because he’s worried I’ll hurt myself.

It looks like a few moments of quiet conversation over steaming cups of coffee before the day begins. It looks like emoji hearts sent in the middle of a hectic work day, just so I know he’s thinking of me. It looks like a simple text: “I wish we could meet for a lunch date today.” Even (and maybe especially) when we can’t.

This love doesn’t look a thing like a thought it would when we started out, young and in love and not yet seventeen. But it’s better. It’s not loud or boisterous or even overly romantic. It a love that folds laundry late at night. It’s a love that builds a life together; with threads of deeply earned and honored trust. It’s a love that holds us steady, when it feels like everything else might be crashing down around us. It’s a love that lets us dream of the future days, even as we seek to be present in these intensely beautiful days we are living in now.

It’s a love that plans a garden; that’s not afraid to get its hands dirty. It’s a love that plants seeds together, watching and waiting for them to grow in their time.

It’s a contented love, peaceful with itself. Okay with not being flashy or showy. It’s the kind of love that lets us get away for a weekend before welcoming two babies at once to our family, and we know if all we do is talk and sleep and eat together in blissful silence; it will be enough to give us a breath before this next, very intense plunge of our lives.

It’s a love that chooses every day small actions, instead of big ostentatious airport displays of affection. It’s a love that sticks with it—that rearranges the furniture as many times as it takes to make the room work.

It’s a love that makes room, in our home and our hearts for what’s next—whatever that looks like.

It’s a love that trusts that the good God that has brought us this far, will bring us through whatever challenges lie ahead: by His grace and for His glory.

(Photo clearly taken pre-twin pregnancy)