Saturday, December 15, 2012

Letter to Lilia

Dear Peanut,

There's a song by Keith Green to his son, and in it he sings, "Well if I could I would protect you from what you will see.  This world promised love and beauty, but it lied to me."  That is how I feel tonight.  I want to protect you, shield you, spare you (if I could) from the evil you will see in this broken, fallen world.  I want to keep you safe from it, like a mother bird fiercely guarding her nest from predators. 

Today, as I read the horrible news of precious little ones, not much older than you, whose lives were violently ended by evil, you were playing lightheartedly near me.  I asked you to come sit on my lap, just so I could hold you and have you near, smell your hair and feel your little hands on my arms.  And then I cried for nearly a solid half hour.  You comforted me by bringing me your "beebee."  How precious is your little life to me, Lilia.

I'm not really sure how to trust God with your future, how to let Him have the reigns.  How do I wake up each day and relinquish your care to His hands, when I love you so fiercely?  How could I endure the kind of anguish that so many parents are feeling tonight over the loss of their precious children? Oh Lilia, how could I endure that pain?  It would utterly break me. 

But Keith Green also sings in the same song, "Oh what a strong Shepherd holds you in His arms,"  and I remember this painting I have of Jesus holding a little lamb in His strong, wide arms.  So tender, yet so strong.  He loves that little lamb, and He is such a strong Shepherd, so much stronger than your feeble mommy and daddy, love you though we do.  We cannot protect you, not really.  Not ultimately.  Only God can do that.

The really hard part for me to swallow, Lilia, is that God doesn't promise me that He will always keep you safe from evil or from the danger of life.  I want Him to promise me that as I pray and beg Him to spare you... but He does not.  All creation groans under the weight of sin, all suffer. 

This is what He does promise:  To be the strong Shepherd holding you in His arms, whatever wolves assail and cliffs draw near.  It means that there will be danger, of some form or another, present.  But the Shepherd will be present, too, and He can hold you so much more strongly and gently than I ever could, whether here or in eternity.

I will do whatever is in my weak, frail, death-bound power to protect you, Peanut.  By the grace God has given, I will do it.  But ultimately, I must leave you to His care, knowing He loves you even more than I do.  And I will also pray:

"The Lord bless you and keep you, Lilia.  The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.  The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, Lilia, and give you peace.... May the Lord bless you with long life, little Peanut, and show you His salvation."

I love you,

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's a Lonely, Lonely, Lonely, Lonely World

I read a very sad and very insightful article this week.  The article, entitled "Cell Phones Do Not Make Good Friends," chronicled how our culture's compulsive use of digital technology (namely, cell phones) is eroding our personal relationships. In other words, people are more lonely nowadays, and they have fewer friends, and this corresponds in part to how obsessed our brains have become with techno-gadgets.

I sometimes yearn, I must admit, for an iPhone.  I usually do not, but sometimes I do.  When Jerry and I are on one of our crazy long road trips to Kentucky, for example, and Lilia is quickly reaching meltdown mode in her car seat, and we LONG to know where is the closest McDonald's with a play land -- THAT is when I yearn for one.  I fully realize the abundance of neato features inherent in the little gizmos.  I applaud Steve Jobs for his creatively brilliant brain.  And they can be covered in some cutesy little jackets and things to reflect one's personal taste.  They have their uses, and yes, I sometimes yearn for one.

But usually I do not.

I'll tell you what I do yearn for:  Friendship.

I'm going to be embarrassingly vulnerable:  I'm desperately lonely for friends.  Aside from my precious hubby, who is my dearest friend (as he should be), I have very few friends these days.  That is not to say that I do not have ANY friends.  I do, and some of them are exceedingly dear to my heart.  But the friend that one can label as a true friend, the kind of friend who loves dearer than a brother, is practically non-existent.

I don't think I remember a time of longing so desperately for a friend.  (See, I told you I was going to be embarrassingly vulnerable.)  I'm so lonely for a friend.

Which is why I find myself lately doing two things:  1. Abhorring more than ever the impersonal nature of our culture; and 2. Remembering dear friends of the past and present.

As far as Number One is concerned:  To be quite frank, I wish people would get off their cell phones.  I wish that they would stop checking texts when they are talking to me.  I wish they would turn off their cell phone when sitting at the dinner table with me.  I wish they would stop pulling out their phones to entertain my daughter and instead (here's a thought!) TALK to her.  Sing to her.  Play with her.  Read to her.

I don't say this to be cruel, and I fully realize that I check my own cell phone (old school model that it is) far too often.  Facebook beckons me too frequently.  In other words, I'm guilty, too.  But I've so far been able to avoid becoming one of those people who sits with a "friend" for two straight hours and never exchanges so much as a nod while I scroll through three gazillion posts and text messages.  No wonder people are lonely!

On to Number Two:  Dear friends of the past and present.  I consider myself blessed beyond words to have had some of the dearest, truest friends a girl could hope to have...

Molly, for example.  Though I see her hardly ever these days, and though we only occasionally email a friendly greeting and update, I will always treasure this friend found in second grade.  I remember all of our rambles as we rode "doubles" on her ten speed through alleyways and neighborhood streets at the risk of our lives, laughing the whole way.

And Missy (thank you, Mr. Varner!).  She always remembered to bake chocolate chip bar cookies for me before I came to her house (doughy and gooey in the center).  I love her no-nonsense, down to earth nature, and her faith inspires me and spurns me forward.

Melanie... we only just started becoming friends before she and her husband left town, yet somehow it seemed as if I had found a real sister.  I can share my heart over email with Melanie, and she "gets it."  She should, I guess, since she's practically my emotional, intellectual, and psychological clone.

Jenny.  What do I say about Jenny?  Frasier, fingernail-biting, eharmony, Matlock, and cross country road trips, for starters.  There is a verse in Proverbs:  "There is a friend who loves closer than a brother."  THAT is Jenny.

And there are others whom I remember with teary-eyed fondness:  Tara, whose beauty and laughter attract all in her path; Hilary, a lovely mix of goofiness and intellectual sophistication; Leslie, whose nutty humor was a carbon copy of my own, even if others questioned our "mental health;" and Emily, who roamed with me through high school hallways during lunch breaks and was my faithful "partner in crime" as we toilet papered the boys' homes. 

These are the kind of friends whose faces stay with you in the desert places of life.  Their voices and and smiles, the memories you share, do not fade away over miles and years.  They remain.  The friendship slackens through distance and time, perhaps, but the heart is somehow permanently knit.  Oh, how I miss these friends.

My husband is teaching through Proverbs in our Sunday School class, and he taught last week on the recurring theme of friendship.  Since my husband is a "data head," his lesson involved statistics -- lots of them.  Most of the statistics convey, like the article I recently read, the general and deepening loneliness of individuals.  We're speaking less.  We're watching TV more.  We're lonelier than ever.

There's a children's book by Eric Carle called, "Will You Be My Friend?"  In it, a mouse approaches many different animals (all bigger than him) and asks, "Will you be my friend?"  Of course the mouse is very small and vulnerable, and he takes great risks in approaching the other animals and asking them to be his friend.  Most of the animals sadly say "no" (even though they are not on cell phones). 

That is how I feel these days.  I feel like that little mouse asking people to be my friend.  They don't say 'no' but they don't say 'yes,' either.  Sometimes they never reply.  But there are some little sparks of hope here and there, when someone is willing to give it a shot and willing to start investing the time to become friends.  That, at least, is encouraging to my heart.

I don't know when, if ever, I will make another true friend.  I don't know when I'll have that kindred spirit with whom to regularly meet over coffee, girl talk, and prayer.  But I guess I'll keep trying, even though discouragement has overwhelmed me.  It is taking everything I have, but I guess I will keep trying and risking, like that little mouse in the silly children's book.  I will keep asking, "Will you be my friend?"

And maybe after some time, little or long, I will find.... another Jenny.  Another Melanie.  Another Molly or Missy or Tara.

In the meantime, I will ask the Lord to help me become the kind of friend that these have been to me, and I will thank Him that I have dear friends in memory, if not in presence.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Goodbye, America.  I'll miss you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mrs. B.'s Amateur Commentary on the Vice Presidential Debate

Well, well, well.  I must confess that up until tonight I had thought that President Obama was perhaps the most arrogant, childish person on the planet, but I think I've changed my mind.  After viewing tonight's Ryan/Biden debate, I submit that his VP has earned this honor, hands down.  Congratulations, Joe!

Let's just review the Veep's performance for a moment, shall we:  Snarky laughter, interruption, shaking head, interruption, snarky laughter, rude comment, interruption, snarky laughter (with melodramatic, upraised hands), nervous head-shaking, lie, lie, lie, and interruption.  It seems that many respondents to post-debate polls are referring to Mr. Biden as "boorish," "rude," and "a general buffoon."

Gee... ya' THINK?!

Sometimes I think that perhaps I am judging the President and his Veep too harshly when, in quiet, sober moments of political reflection, I inevitably regard them as two whining, spoiled, childish brats.

Really, though, that's too silly of me.  On the contrary, I have been far too gracious.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Turning Wheels

The results are in:  More Americans now die from suicide than from car crashes.  

Before you respond by saying, "Well aren't you just a ray of sunshine?," let me say this:  I'm not trying to be a major downer.  Yesterday, when Jerry informed me of this news -- something he had read earlier in the day -- we looked at each other aghast.  We were speechless.  We nearly cried.  I just feel compelled to address this issue, even though the nature of the topic is nothing short of horrifyingly tragic.  This will not be an uplifting blog entry.

It takes a lot of desperation for someone to actually take his or her own life.   By nature, we want to live.  So to get to the point of willfully causing your very own life to cease, one must be more than just merely depressed.  One must be to the point of absolute desperation and despondency.  

To be candid, I know how this feels.  A little more than twelve years ago -- in the weeks preceding my conversion to Christ -- I was at this point myself.  If you haven't been there, take my word for it:  You don't want to be.  There is something sinister and terrifying when the mind begins to invent ways of doing oneself in.  It is an alien place, and a dark one.  Although I never attempted to take my life, the wheels in my mind were turning:  Maybe I could just swallow a bottle of pills.  Maybe I could just slit my wrists.  Maybe I could....

Perhaps some other day I will share the details that some people know, but many don't -- the reasons why I had gotten to the point of such desperation.  But for now, I will just say that I had no hope.  I hated life, and I hated myself.  I hated pretty much everything, and so I wanted to die.  More than that, I often wished I had never been born.  In my mind at the time, to have never been born would have been much, much better.  And so perhaps you can see why the frightening wheels were turning.

Thankfully, God intervened at the point when I was ready to trust Him.  And although it was a long road with battles along the way, He eventually got me to a place of wholeness and healing.  No longer did I want to die, no longer did I wish for nihilo.  

But back to the tragic reality:  More Americans now take their own lives than die in car wrecks.  The number is something like 37,000 dying in this horrible manner.  Hundreds of people every single day.  Taking.  Their.  Own.  Lives.  

We hear numbers like that, and our first question is, "Why?"  I don't want to sound trite, but I do believe the answer is a fairly simple one:  They have no hope.  Man can live without a lot of things, but he cannot live without hope, without significance.  This is how he differs from the animal kingdom.  The imago Dei needs reclaiming, and therein is true hope and significance.  Therein is life.

As our culture drifts further and further away from truth, is it any wonder that more people murder themselves?  Is it not the logical outflow of our cultural mindset?  We reject any notion of absolute truth, so there is no compass.  We believe that we come from nothing, so there is nowhere to go and no one to help.  We crown ourselves as king even as we reject any notion of significance, so there is only madness without hope.  With a worldview like this, why not kill ourselves?  Really, there is no reason not to do so.  

But oh, what a tragedy.  And how my heart breaks over it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Haunting Memory

I remember Monday, September 10, 2001 very clearly.  I was working as a substitute teacher in the Beaverton School District outside of Portland, Oregon, and I worked as an aide's sub for a middle school special education class that day.  I remember the attractive concrete courtyard leading to the building's double doors.  I remember the office with its plethora of walkways zig-zagging between large desks and cubicles.  I remember accompanying my wheelchair-bound charge that day, a young boy, to his language arts class, and I remember the short conversation I had with the attractive male teacher of that class about the ups and downs of the teaching profession.

I don't remember many other sub days from that Fall with quite so much clarity, but I do remember that day.  I guess I remember it because it was the day that preceded 9/11, and like most everybody else in America, my world was rocked on Tuesday.  Somehow my mind filed September 10 away somewhere.  Maybe it is filed under the heading, "What Normal Days Were Like Before That Tuesday."

I was probably one of the last people in America to hear about the events of September 11, 2001.  I'm not exaggerating -- I was probably one of the very last people to hear about it.  The reason is multi-faceted:  I didn't have to work that day, neither at Starbucks nor as a substitute teacher, so I slept in a bit.  I also lived alone, and I didn't live in the same town as any family members.  I had a television, but I rarely watched the thing, and I didn't turn it on that morning.  I didn't have a computer then, and I don't think I even knew how to navigate the internet, anyway.  Finally, I didn't go anywhere that morning.  If memory serves, I think I just did some laundry, took a shower, ate, and read.

My phone rung at about one o'clock Pacific Time -- seven full hours after the first attack -- and my mom asked me if I had heard "what had happened."  She then proceeded to unfold the horrific news, and I remember the first thing I said:  "I hate Satan."

I understand if that sounds like superstitious nonsense to someone without a biblical worldview.  It probably would have sounded weird to me at one time, too.  But I vividly remember thinking, as my mother shared the details of the terrorist attacks, that everything about it was evil personified.  The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  I still think that today.

Of course I know that there is a completely tangible element to those attacks, too.  There's the politics, the economics, the bare bones religious reasons.  But there is more to it than that, make no mistake about it.  Evil is real, and we saw its face that day. 

Once Jerry and I were talking about 9/11.  He commented on how the attacks weren't intended to be merely physical and political -- they were intended to be psychological, too.  He's right.  Thousands of people died that day, and there are others who survived the ordeal.  But what of the rest of us?  We watched in horror, and as we watched we seemed to know that our very minds and hearts were being violently invaded.  We still see images of clear blue skies polluted with smoke, of precious souls willingly jumping hundreds of feet to certain death, of commercial airliners turned into screaming missiles.  That day was intended to haunt our minds.  And it worked.

I was driving with my Peanut this morning, and as we passed the nearby bank I noticed the flag at half-staff.  It occurred to me how Lilia will never remember, like I do, what a normal day was like before September 11, 2001.  She will always be in a post 9/11 world.  Sure, we still have "normal days," and our country's collective soul heals and moves on.  But I think that every one of us who remember that day will carry it around somehow, deep inside of us, like a haunting memory.

Monday, September 3, 2012

When the "Bugs" Bite

There are lots of things that bug me.  Reality television, for example, drives me nuts.  I would prefer to be tied to the scooping end of a bulldozer digging up cow manure than to view most of the reality entertainment on television any given weekday evening.  Hominy is something else that I find repulsive.  I was forced to eat these sad, swampy, mustard-colored chunks as a child, and I only succeeded by remembering that the brussel sprouts the night before were exponentially worse.  It would also be no stretch to say that I am greatly annoyed by drivers who are texting.  Aside from the obvious fact that they are in the process of endangering my life, I just find that I have no patience for a subculture that cannot get off of social media for three minutes at a stretch.

But if there's anything that really, really grates me, it is this:  Women who claim to speak on behalf of the entire feminine population.  I often wonder why they didn't bother to consult me before sharing my apparent opinion with the entire civilized world.  

And so, in light of this admission, all I can say is this:  Thank you, featured women speakers at the Republican National Convention, for making me unashamed to be a woman for a change.

I don't normally "get political," but I find that every four years there are a number of featured women on news programs and other media outlets claiming to understand what I must "want from the government," simply because they share with me a particular set of reproductive organs.  I hate to break it to them, but I also have a brain.  And this may be a bit of a stunner, but I am fairly adept at using it.  In other words, I can think for myself.  It just so happens that when I do this thinking, I often find myself at odds with these women who would otherwise claim my concurrence. 

You see, as a woman, I am bothered by the fact that our government has now acquired over sixteen trillion dollars of debt, and that the current administration seems to have great difficulty with remedial calculations.  That bugs me.  I am also bothered by the fact that I may not have control over my own health care and that the leaders of our country seem to think I need them to decide upon this for me.  That bugs me.  I am furthermore bothered by the fact that I am being offered complete and unimpeded access to the barbarous practice of abortion, and that this should be something that I find comforting and celebratory since I am, after all, a woman.  That bugs me (especially as the mother of an adopted child).  

So I was greatly relieved and proud to view women at the RNC speaking boldly, eloquently, and intelligently about these same things.  They were women, just like me, yet they were not claiming to speak for me.  These particular women -- of every race and background -- were speaking for themselves and sharing their desires for our nation.  And they were sharing these passions because they have thought long and hard about it, and they believe our country is on a road to disaster.  I happen to agree with them. 

I really do not mean any disrespect to the current administration of this country, who holds a position of due honor.  I am simply diametrically opposed, at heart, to everything he has done.  I also do not mean any disrespect to women who happen to support the current administration.  Again, I am simply diametrically opposed to their viewpoint.  But I have known many of them over the years, and some of them are exceedingly dear to my heart, women of honor.

I'm just so glad to finally, finally hear women in positions of leadership and authority, making me glad to stand with them.  It's an honor, truly.  And it's not like it's a dishonor to stand with the men.  That's an honor, too.

But they never dress as well. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Poo in the Afternoon

There are some days when a parent looks back at life prior to child with a certain kind of bewildered, disbelieving wonder:  "What on earth made us smile or laugh before this adorable little bundle came along?" for example.  

Then there are days when a parent looks forward in life in a way that I suppose would be comparable to Caesar's sentiment when preparing to cross the Rubicon:  "The die has been cast."  In other words, there is no going back now.  We have passed the point of no return.  We are parents, with all of the messy battles that parenting can bring... whether we like it or not.

Yesterday we did not like it. 

We are in the midst of walking those frightful corridors that every parent of a toddler must tread:  Potty training.  I've heard horror stories, and I've heard more horror stories.  I've never heard anything flowery or fun in relation to this topic.  But nothing I'd heard prepared me for our little adventure with Lilia yesterday.

At around 2 o'clock, after a very busy morning, we put her down for nap.  Since we heard not so much as a peep from her room, we fully believed her to be engaged in a blissful, sound sleep.  

Oh, what fools we were.

At about 4 o'clock, Jerry went to awaken our darling little angel from her precious "slumber."  About five seconds later, in response to his frantic calls for help, I joined him.  

She was not asleep.  Not only was she not asleep, but it appeared that she had not slept at all.  Not only that, but her diaper was OFF.  We slowly began to realize that not only was her diaper OFF, but the messy contents of her diaper were scattered EVERYWHERE about her room.  Yes, that's right, my friends:  The poo was EVERYWHERE:  On the bed rails, on the blankets, on the window, on the carpet, on the stuffed animals, on the walls, on the books, on the furniture.  There was nary a spot in the room that the poo had not touched.  And it smelled.  Badly.  The smell of poo pervaded the nostrils in a most ferocious manner.

Oh yes, and did I mention that the poo was also all over our adorable little daughter?  How could I forget that little tidbit?  The poo was also covering our daughter.  She also smelled of poo.

It's very hard to convey the emotions that coursed through our bodies at that moment.  First, we were appalled.  Then, we were angry.  Then, we were sad.  Then, we were frustrated.  Finally, we realized that we needed to break free from our state of petrified disbelief and DO something! 

What did we do?  Oh, I'm so glad you asked.  As Jerry angrily bathed our filthy child, I collected an odd assortment of necessary implements:  Paper towels, rags, latex gloves, boiling water.  I felt a little bit like I was preparing to deliver someone's baby.   I began to slowly collect the fragments of poo and place them in plastic bags.  I collected each item with a copious amount of poo on it to be either disposed of immediately or placed into a boiling cauldron.  

I then began to scrape hardened poo off of the furniture, the walls, the bed rails.  I think it was at this point that I began to wish I had never been born.  Jerry then uttered a few minor profanities.  (Or that might have been me, I can't really remember.  It was all so traumatic).

After our child was cleaned and disinfected, Jerry joined me.  We worked together in true marital harmony, as one:  Scraping, wiping, disinfecting, cursing.  After one and one half hours of this arduous labor, we began to see the fruits of our efforts.  The room once again looked like the shining, safe abode of our little gift from above.  *grr!*

We laughed a little bit about it today.  Tomorrow we may laugh a bit more.  I fancy that twenty years from now we will be rolling with laughter as we share this information with Lilia's betrothed.  

Yesterday, we did not laugh.  We only cried and postulated various theories about what strange creature had temporarily taken over the body of our adorable little baby girl.  

And just in case you are wondering:  Boiling water removes poo from walls very quickly and effectively.  Hydrogen peroxide is a must for poo embedded in carpet.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Tale of Two Daddies

In the school calendar year 1982-83, I was a long-haired, acrobatically-inclined, sweater-vest-wearing second grader in Miss Glaze's second and third grade split class.  Among other academic exercises, Miss Glaze once assigned us a writing project whereby we were to describe, in two to three short paragraphs, a "missing person" -- without ever naming the individual.  Looking back, I can only guess that the intent of such an assignment was a mastery of adjectives and adverbs, but at the time I simply saw it as a cool thing to do on specially prepared, pre-lined, ten-by-fourteen-inch paper.

The title of the piece was, in fact, "Missing Person," and this was boldly proclaimed at the top of the page, above a roughly four-by-four-inch box where the student could exercise his or her artistic gifts by providing the reader with a sketch or portrait of said "missing person."  I vividly remember sitting there at my east-facing desk, pencil poised thoughtfully in mid air as my second grade brain began to wax literary.  Apparently I had no conception of the link between quality of work and quantity of time invested, for I zealously finished the thing off in about 8 or 9 minutes (including the skimpy, hastily-done pencil sketch) and, if memory serves, probably spent the next 20 minutes of allotted time reading the Boxcar Children while sipping chocolate milk from my red Star Wars thermos.

All of that said, I somehow received a fine mark.  Not only that, but the literary endeavor has received near legendary status in my childhood home, where it hangs framed in my parents' bedroom between pictures of grandparents and certificates of honor.  For the sake of nostalgia, this is how it reads:

This person wears almost the same clothes every day.  Sometimes he goes to the store.  When he reads, he needs glasses.  He has black hair.  And he is the person I mostly sit by on the couch.  Sometimes he takes me to the park on sunny days.

He has yellow teeth.  He is 6 ft. 4 inches.  He has brown eyes and black eyebrows.  He is 47 years old.  But he's the person I'm glad to live with.

This narrative par excellence attempted to describe someone very dear to my second-grade heart:  Daddy.  It contains a certain amount of creative license (my dad was actually 5 foot 10).  I can imagine my forty-something parents immersed in teary-eyed fits of laughter after reading the thing when I proudly presented it.  Only a small child would have the audacity to forever commemorate her father by telling the world he "has yellow teeth" and "wears almost the same clothes every day." 

My Dad was, in fact, a strikingly handsome man.  He did not have yellow teeth.  And he was hygenic and sensible enough to not wear the same clothes every day (although his clothes all looked the same to me).

But I guess my parents framed the thing because they were able -- and I'll use an actual literary phrase here -- "to read between the lines."  Sure, they laughed feverishly when they first got hold of it.  But I imagine that afterward they probably cried a few sincere tears of endearment.  It was, after all, a genuine attempt by a sentimentally awkward second grader to describe her hero.  My parents understood this.  And despite the funny idiosyncrasies, the sweeter side of things are woven into the piece as well:  Images of Daddy taking me to the park, sitting side by side on the couch in the evening, and the expression of simple contentment to have Daddy at home.

Things have come full circle now.  My Daddy has since passed away, and I have a daughter of my own who adores her Daddy.  I think the Lord has given me, in a sense, a way of seeing myself as a little girl with my own Daddy, as I watch Jerry and Lilia.  She waits for him by the front window when she knows he will be home soon.  She reaches into his front shirt pocket, searching for "treats," when he holds her in his arms.  Her contagious laughter echoes through the house when he carries her on his back, running from room to room.  And he is the person she mostly sits by on the couch.

The other night Jerry told me that he had been reading Lilia a story earlier that evening while she sat in his lap.  In this particular story, all of the main characters are bears.  At one point, the Daddy bear arrives home from work, greeting his family.  Upon turning to that page my daughter pointed to Jerry and said, beaming and full of two-year-old pride, "You're my Daddy."

It's enough to melt the stoniest of hearts, and my husband's heart is not stony.  As he related this sweet story to me, his face literally beamed.  It was hard for him to keep from crying.  I could see then what that simple little statement from a pint-sized Peanut meant to him.  Reading between the lines, if you will, it meant this:  "I love my Daddy."

That's what I had meant, too, as I sat there in Miss Glaze's class endeavoring to describe the missing person. The prose was in no way elegant or poetic, but in essence I was saying the same thing that Lilia said to Jerry over the story of a bear family:

"This is my Daddy.  I love him a lot."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lessons from Bamboo

I recently heard an interesting fact about Bamboo plants:  After planting, the bamboo will remain in the ground, developing here and there, ever so slowly, for a full four years.  Then suddenly, in the fifth year or thereabouts, it will shoot up out of the ground, reaching 90 feet in height over the course of about three weeks.  For years you can't see any progress, and then -- bang! -- bamboo enough for the hungriest of pandas.

I wasn't watching one of those cool nature shows on PBS when I learned this fact.  My hubby told me that it was something he heard on some parenting segment of a radio broadcast.  Now I don't know about you, but typically I don't expect to hear about the life cycle of horticulture when listening to a parenting program.  That's like hearing about volcanic eruptions on a cooking show or the ecology of tide pools at a financial seminar.  But it was brought up by some parent (who was, perhaps, a botanist?) as an apt analogy to raising children.

It especially encourages me because we have officially entered with Lilia what is popularly referred to as the "terrible twos."  It's also known as toddlerhood.  Yes, folks, the babymoon is over.  Toddlerhood is here.

Welcome to the real world.

Over the course of the past month, Jerry and I have found ourselves frequently asking this question:  "Uh, where did our adorable and sweet little baby go??"  It has prompted us to seek some wisdom from a plethora of sources, and one of those sources is a book called The New Dare to Discipline, by Dr. James Dobson.  The focus of the book is having the courage, as a parent, to discipline (train and teach) your children -- consistently, wisely, diligently, and always in a spirit of love and tenderness.

Among other things, Dr. Dobson is absolutely hilarious.  As Jerry and I sit and read this book, we often find ourselves just busting up over some of his anecdotes and descriptions.  Here is a choice tidbit on 'toddlerhood':

"... let's say a few words about that marvelous time of life known as toddlerhood.  It begins with a bang (like the crash of a lamp or a porcelain vase) at about eighteen months of age and runs hot and heavy until about the third birthday... Children between fifteen and thirty-six months of age do not want to be restricted or inhibited in any manner, nor are they inclined to conceal their viewpoint.  They resent every nap imposed on them, and bedtime becomes an exhausting, dreaded ordeal each night.  They want to play with everything in reach, particularly fragile and expensive ornaments.  They prefer using their pants rather than the potty, and insist on eating with their hands.  And need I remind you that most of what goes in their mouths is not food.  When they break loose in a store, they run as fast as their little fat legs will carry them.  They pick up the kitty by its ears and then scream bloody murder when scratched.  They want mommy within three feet of them all day, preferably in the role of their full-time playmate.  Truly, the toddler is a tiger!

We were laughing like hyenas when reading this, mostly because it describes very nearly word for word what life is now like with our once-adorable, once-angelic little Peanut.  We still love her just as much (if not more than) as ever.  She's just more... well, toddler-like now.

Part of this toddlerhood thing means training (i.e:  discipline).  Sometimes it means discipline of the same kind and for the same offense five or six times within as many minutes.  It's exhausting, and it changes your daily life.  I don't remember when I last folded laundry or fed the cat (is he even still alive?!).  Dinners are often delayed or postponed indefinitely, and need I even mention that romance with one's spouse is uh, well, not as frequent as before.  *ahem*

There are times when I really, truly wonder if it's making any difference, this intentional parenting thing.  When I find myself telling Lilia, "For the one-hundred-thousandth time, do not take objects off of the counter top," and then I proceed to hold her little arms down firmly at her sides, gently but firmly telling her no and that I love her and that if she does it again it will mean a hand-flick or a spanking because I want her to stay safe...  Is it really making any difference?  Will she ever get it?

That's where the bamboo part comes in.  It's still early days. The planting has been done, and now there's the tending, the watering, the care-taking.  And then one day, as most parents say, your child does something or says something and you realize that the growth is there.  It shoots up before your eyes like bamboo, all of a sudden.  And it's because you were diligent to watch, to love, to give, to care.

I've not known anything as exhausting as being a parent.  Teaching children in a classroom is small potatoes compared to this daunting endeavor.  But I can honestly say that parenting -- even the hard parts -- has brought more joy to my life than I ever thought possible.  Watching that little Peanut toddle around the room is just the cutest little thing in the world to me.

If I can experience that level of joy now, when the growth is still hidden, what will it be like when the shoots appear?  I can only guess, and pray, that the harvest will be unimaginably sweet.

So here's to bamboo.  (And now I should probably go see if the cat is still alive).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Behind Prison Walls

When Chuck Colson died on April 21, people remembered him as one of two things:  President Nixon's "hatchet man" in the Watergate Scandal, or a leader in Christian evangelical circles.  He was both of those things, and I imagine he was much more, too.

After his conversion (which, by the way, was after his involvement in the whole Watergate thing), he served time in prison and then founded Prison Fellowship, a ministry that has shared the love of Christ with inmates all over the world.  Because he was a prisoner, he could empathize with prison inmates in a way that many of us cannot.  He understood the brokenness, the sense of isolation, the despondency.  He went to them personally, telling them that God loves them, that He sent His Son to die for them, that there is hope, even for them.  Many of those prisoners trusted Christ, and some are now following in Colson's footsteps, reaching out to others as he reached out to them.  

I was reading an article recently about Colson, and the author noted how God is not a respecter of persons.  He extends his offer of salvation to the entire world.  As the author put it, "The worship arising behind prison walls sounds just as sweet to God as the prayers from the church pews."  I think I often forget this.  I feel all cozy and justified on Sunday morning, but I often forget that there was a time when I was a prisoner, too.  I wasn't incarcerated, but I was a captive --  to my sin, to my pride, to my hopeless despair.  And then Jesus came one night and set me free. 

I'm told that when a convict is released from prison after serving time, there is (typically) a far greater appreciation for freedom.  Similarly, at those times when I give serious remembrance to my life before Christ, my self-righteousness and pride are shattered like glass, and I feel what it was like to be a prisoner.  I remember.  And it's at those times when Jesus is sweeter to me than on any Sunday morning.  He becomes to me once again what He should be at every waking and sleeping moment:  Rescuer, Hero, Lovingkindness, Friend.

Chuck Colson walked in the footsteps of Jesus by taking the good news of salvation to the dregs of society.  He has left a legacy, and I am grateful to him for that.

Really though, we are all the dregs, every one of us, and we all need a Savior.  We are masters at disguise, but God is not fooled.  He looks at us behind our prison bars with pity and love, and He waits for us to step out toward Him, and sing.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Like a Weaned Child

I was reading last night in the Psalms, and the few words comprising number 131 gently stung:

My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

I've been worried lately, enough to cause my husband near insanity with frequent verbal queries, such as:

"Will the IRS ever really give us our adoption tax credit?"

"Will Lilia get out of her big girl bed in the night and strangle herself on the window blind cords?"

"What is the mathematical possibility of an EF5 tornado plowing through our town and pulverizing our home?"

And (to go along with the tornado question), "Do we have every important document and precious item securely tucked away into our safety deposit box?"

"What if the EF5 tornado pulverizes the bank wherein is contained our safety deposit box?"

"Will Iran make use of nuclear weapons?"

As you can see, I draw from a deep well of worry.  My kind, patient husband tries to gently remind me not to worry, and when my worrisome ways grate him too much he simply says in his almost-mean-if-he-could-have-a-mean-voice way, "You HAVE to stop worrying!"


I don't think I lay too grievous an offense at the feet of my sex if I say that I do believe we, as women, tend to worry more than men.  I don't think it's any coincidence that it was Martha whom Jesus gently rebuked for this weakness instead of, say, John or Matthew.  Not that men don't worry, because they do.  But I think that women tend to worry more, that it is somehow more inextricably linked into our post-fall DNA or something.  Or maybe cytosine and guanine have nothing to do with it:  Maybe it's just our need for security and safety that so easily causes us to be pushed over the cliff into the gulf of anxiety.  

At any rate, I've been worried lately, and then I read Psalm 131 last night.

My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty.

My heart is proud and my eyes are haughty.  I think of myself far too frequently.  It's like a disease with me or something.  Whenever my eyes are on me, I worry.  Like Keith Green sung, "Oh, it's so hard to see when my eyes are on me."  Yes, Lord, my heart is proud and my eyes are haughty.  I confess it.

I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.

Sure I do.  All the time.  Most recently it involves the IRS thing and wondering if they will truly ever give us our multi-thousand dollar adoption tax credit.  As the eternal pessimist, my inclination is to simply state, "Yeah, sure they will. When pigs fly they'll give us our adoption tax credit."  And then I spend the next umpteen minutes agonizing over the impossibility of dealing with the red tape of government (and, incidentally, worrying about the future of our health care system if Uncle Sam can't even deal with a simple adoption tax credit!).  You see, the worry never ends with me.  

The truth is, I concern myself with things "too wonderful for me" far too often.  This doesn't mean it's a bad thing to wonder what causes supernovas or to ponder the intricacies of the human cell:  It's good to learn and discover.  But the "too wonderful" things are things that I have no control over, things I can't possibly change one way or the other:

Will we get our money back from the IRS?  I don't know, but if we don't, surely life will go on and God will use that for His glory and our good.

Will we ever have another child?  Very possibly not, but whether we do or don't, we've been blessed with one precious daughter, and God has been good to us.

Where will Jerry get his next job?  How long will it take for that to come?  I have no way to know this, but God goes before us and paves our way, and He plans our good and not our destruction.  

He cares for the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, so surely He cares for me, too.  Right?

There's a nest in our backyard cottonwood tree with a beautiful, elegant dove.  She is nesting.  We love to stand beneath the branches where she has laid her nest.  We love to stand there and just watch her lovely face and watch her protect her eggs.  It's a lovely thing she is doing, just being and just carrying out the plan God laid for her.  God has given her all she needs for the task, and that she does.  

But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother,  like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Yesterday in church we sung an old hymn with these words:  "Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, how I've proved Him over and over.  Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, oh for grace to trust Him more."

I felt that I couldn't honestly sing the words to that song, so I ad-libbed:  "Jesus, Jesus, how I (used to) trust Him, how I (used to) prove Him over and over."

And then the last words I didn't have to ad-lib:  "Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, oh for grace to trust Him more."

The thing about a weaned child is this:  He or she isn't worried because mommy is nearby and every need is provided.  That's what is so beautiful about seeing a newborn baby with his mother.  The tenderness, the helplessness, is such a beautiful sight.  That is partly why we love to watch the mother dove in our backyard tree.  She doesn't do anything really except sit there on her eggs and be a mommy.  It's a simple, lovely thing.

We used to wonder when we'd have a child, whether through adoption or pregnancy.  I worried about that once, too.  And you can read about that story elsewhere, but God gave us a beautiful little girl.  

I noticed several months ago that I had this bookmark tucked away in my bedside drawer.  I hadn't seen the bookmark for ages, but it tumbled out of my drawer one day when I was searching for something else.  There's a lifelike rendering on this bookmark of a very pretty little girl, about two years old.  It struck me immediately when I saw it:  That looks almost exactly like Lilia!  Jerry noticed it, too.  Except for darker eyes, it's a picture of our daughter, and she's standing there holding a bouquet of white daisies.

I had that bookmark for years without ever noticing the little girl.  I had no way of knowing that our own daughter would very nearly be her spitting image.  It's no theological faux pas to say that God knew exactly what Lilia would look like, and that she would be ours.  

Underneath the picture of the little girl is this Scripture:  ... give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever...

So why do I worry again? 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Of Bites and Men

My daughter was bitten today by another child at the public library. Before any of her grandparents read this and proceed to freak out, let me take the time to assure them now that she is perfectly fine and suffering no ill effects. She had some extremely nasty looking teeth prints on the fingers of her right hand for about five minutes, there is some broken skin, and she's on penicillin since the bites were bad enough to bring forth a little bit of blood; but she's recovering. Mommy's heart was racing like crazy when I first witnessed the virtual craters in her hands caused by the teeth, but when she started calming down, my heart eased.

To be truthful, though, it wasn't the hand-biting episode in itself that impacted me as much as the ironic timing of it. Let me explain...

Because I am a voracious reader of "the classics," I am always trying to get my paws on another classic book which I have not yet read. My most recent endeavor was Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- although I still need to finish Part Four -- but since we were at the library anyway I was preemptively seeking my next literary treasure. I include, from time to time, a children's "classic" on my list, especially if said classic was written prior to 1920; these are often written in astonishingly eloquent prose, especially when one considers such a book was written for a child.

That said, today I had a few children's titles -- classics -- as potential options. One particular of these I picked up and proceeded to read just a tiny bit about the author on the back spine. It was said of her that "she believed in the natural innocence of children." It went on to say that she understood all children would "grow up to be decent, caring people when left to their own devices."

Children are a blessing, undeniably. If you have the special privilege of being a parent, you understand this truth in a radically special way. What a gift. And there is, with every child, what I would call "an innocence of wonder." Lilia is at a stage now where she exhibits more curiosity than even our cat (no mean feat). She also keeps Jerry and I in stitches every day. She's just a little bundle of cute, curious, hilarious, clumsy, wondering, awkward joy.

But she's a sinner, too. Just like me and Jerry. She has a selfish nature, and it didn't take us terribly long to see the evidence of it. It was about four months ago, when she started expanding on her extremely limited vocabulary, that it really came home to me. I would hear her awakening from naps, and as usual, she would be talking to herself. But there were suddenly two new words she was practicing with rabid frequency: "No" and "mine."

Funny, I don't recall us ever teaching her those words. I wonder where that came from.

I replaced the book upon the shelf, wondering, to be quite frank, how anyone with the slightest familiarity with children could be so naive. Twenty minutes later my daughter's hand was fodder for the molars and incisors of a quite adorable two-and-a-half-year-old girl with blonde, bouncing ringlets (an effective, if not primitive, method of procuring a toy).

Her father, utterly mortified, handled the situation glowingly. He felt, of course, though through no fault of his own, terribly guilty for the wounds inflicted upon Lilia by his pretty little girl. He apologized profusely, and he impressively dealt with his daughter through a combination of firmness and gentleness. She apologized to Lilia. Lilia learned what it can mean to forgive. It turned out to be (teeth marks and blood notwithstanding) a good lesson for both girls.

I couldn't help but wonder about what I had read on the spine of that book, especially the part about children inevitably becoming "decent, caring people" -- and here's the clencher! -- "when left to their own devices." I wonder what that pretty little girl with the blonde ringlets would have done if her father had "left her to her own devices." I have a hunch that the next time another child possessed the toy she wanted, her bicuspids would have made quick work of some portion of that child's anatomy. Thank goodness her father loves her enough to intervene.

It's noteworthy to add that there is a radical difference between becoming a "decent, caring person" and becoming a person who loves justice and righteousness. I'm not for a moment saying it's a bad thing for someone to be decent and caring. But let's be honest: There are a fair number of decent, caring people in prison. I've known some of them personally. And they are, or were, locked in prison for justifiable reasons. To be candid, I was a decent, caring person before I knew Christ. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I was one of the nicest, sweetest people you ever would have met. But I was filled with selfishness, hatefulness, arrogance, lust, envy, and many secret things of darkness. But oh, was I sweet.

Another thing: It's much easier to produce a decent, caring person in a culture that (whether we approve or not) has been saturated with the effects of Christianity. It's not very popular to say so now, but we derive innumerable blessings from two thousand years worth of the gospel. These blessings include, but are not limited to, our understanding of right and wrong and how we impress this upon our children. I venture to say that it's much easier for a child from twenty-first century America to grow up "decent and caring" than for the child from ancient Assyria.

Finally, of course, is the fact that all humans are created in the image of God, meaning in part that (regardless of which quadrant of the planet you occupy during which century), there is something in you that knows there is a standard to keep. It's beyond you and it's real. It's what allows many of us to become "decent and caring." That's part of God's grace.

One of my former pastors once said, rather poetically, that all humans are born as this crazy mixture of royalty and poverty. I agree. We possess this absolutely astonishing, unique stamp called the imago Dei. But it is horrifyingly tarnished, almost beyond recognition. That tarnish is what causes cute little girls with ringlets to sink their teeth into the flesh of other little people. I daresay my own pretty little girl may someday regard another child's finger as an hors d'oeuvre. Or she'll decide to test her playmate's anti-gravitational properties from the second level of the nearby playground.

We do our children no small disservice when we think of them as innocent little angels who will turn out fine if left to their own devices. The heart of discipline is love. Discipline is a form of love, and discipline without love is not discipline. It's interesting that the word "discipline" is from the Latin disciplina and discipulus, which mean, respectively, "teaching and learning" or "pupil." Proverbs 19:18 says it gently and soberly: "Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction."

After her traumatic ordeal today, I comforted Lilia. She was, in this scenario, not the instigator. But she will be. It may not involve her teeth, but it will involve something. At any rate, I decided to inform her that her teeth are "not for putting on other people."

I think she prefers the taste of cheese, anyway.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Walking by the Way

My husband is participating in this group at our church called The Round Table. One of the many tasks commended to the men involved in this group is the memorization of Scripture. My husband possesses about as much joy for memorization (of anything) as he does for having his teeth drilled without anesthetic; however, since the focus of the memory work is Scripture, and since my husband is a man of God who loves the Word of God, he willingly sets his mind and heart to work for this task every week.

One of the recent verses for memory was from Deuteronomy: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes."

One night he practiced this verse with me, and it led into a conversation about the loveliness of those words and about the beautiful, daunting task of raising our daughter right. What a huge task God has entrusted to us, this bringing up of an actual human being! Really, it staggers the mind: I can barely get through the first ten minutes of a day without inwardly cursing the advance of years upon my morning face, or without struggling to think of something other than myself for five straight seconds. As much as I love my husband, I have the faintest, sneaking suspicion that he also deals with (yes, it's true) sin. Yet God entrusts us with this actual little person, whom we are to teach and instruct, from the heart, about Himself, and whom we are to guide in the ways of rightness and justice.


I'm so afraid of failing.

Relief attends me when I remember that God is mindful I am but dust: He knows I won't perform this task perfectly; He is good enough to meet me where I am, to give me His perfect, precious Word, and to offer me wisdom when I ask for it in faith.

So we're walking by the way together, as a family, and it is a joy, I must confess. Before we eat, we give thanks for what God has given. During the day, we try to teach her about God's character: "We should be kind to others because God is kind to us." We try to read to her from His Word (sometimes this means reading from the "toddler version"), and we get to tell her how precious the Bible is: "It comes from God and tells us about who He is, about who we are, and about what Jesus has done for us." As we walk outside together, we ask her to name the different objects in nature, and we tell her of God's power and creativity, and how He also made us. And before Jerry puts her down to sleep each night, he prays with her. For her. We pray over her life.

It's a daunting, joyful task.

She's already changing so much, no longer a baby, but an official "little girl." The days pass so quickly, one upon the next, and the time is ours for the taking. It won't be given again -- we must use it wisely or waste it. And as we strive to use it wisely, as we seek to instruct our daughter in the things which will last, we get the reward of seeing the fruit of our work, even in the tiniest ways:

There was the time she bowed her head to give thanks for a meal, beating Jerry and I to the task! There was the time she opened her little Bible and found the page about the birth of Christ, pointing to the baby Jesus. There was the time when, of all the books to choose from, she wanted us to read from her bible storybook. And the time recently when, as I prayed aloud for Jerry one morning, she joined me, mumbling words only she and God knew with her little head bent to the ground.

Those moments are gold to me. They're so small in a way, but then, so is she. I don't expect her to recite the Nicene Creed, or to wax theological about the Pauline letters, or to offer me a description of the trinity of God (at least not until she's five). *smile* It's those tiny, little, adorable ways she shows -- God shows -- she's learning, in the most basic of ways, about Truth. What a gift that is!

Before God gave her to us, Jerry and I knew one thing: If we ever had a child, we would do our utmost, from the heart, to instruct him or her in the ways of God. We knew (and still know) we wouldn't do this perfectly. But we'd try. We determined that we'd entrust our child to God, as he entrusted that child to us.

We got the child. We needed a name for her. We couldn't agree on one. "The Kid" was sounding rather crude after having her for ten days, so one night we diligently poured over name lists for the umpteenth time.

And then there it was, that name I had always loved and had (for some reason) forgotten in the desperation to find options: Lilia. I said it aloud: Lilia. "That's pretty," Jerry replied. "I like that. What does it mean?"

"Lilia: To us, to God. Or, whatever is given to us is given to God."


We sense the honor given to us by God in raising Lilia to love Him. But we also sense the fear: What if she rejects Him? We can instruct her and teach her, sharing the treasures of God's Word with her and showing her (hopefully) what it means to follow Christ. But we can't make her love Him. Lilia must respond to God of her own will and of His grace.

Several weeks ago I started asking God to speak to Lilia, of Himself, in her dreams. I asked Him to be in her dreams, and I kept praying for that, day after day. About two weeks ago, as I got her out of her crib one morning, I asked, "Did you have sweet dreams?"

"Yes," she said.

"What did you dream about?" I asked.

"Gees-gees," she replied.

Translation: Jesus.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Color Blue

I'm sitting here writing this at midnight, knowing full well I should be drifting happily into my second hour of sleep. I'll blame tonight's night-owlish behavior on the unique combination of the Coke I downed an hour ago and the irresistible urge to express overflowing emotion on the page (or, in this case, on the laptop). Undoubtedly I will regret this when my alarm beckons me to hygenic and motherly duty bright and early tomorrow morning. I suppose, though, that there are worse things: Fingernails scratching across a chalkboard, for instance, or reality TV shows.

I've spent some time tonight listening to a song by Shawn Colvin called "Never Saw Blue Like That." As it happens, this is the song my husband and I refer to as "our song." We didn't choose this song as "ours" during a moment of exuberant, blissful emotion, or even during a time of nostalgic reverie. We weren't dancing to it. We weren't even listening to it on the radio. Honestly, I think the scenario involved a conversation that went something like this:

Debbie: Hey, Mr. B., do you know that song called "Never Saw Blue Like That"?

Jerry: I don't think so.

Debbie: Oh. Well, you need to listen to it, because I think it should be our song.

Jerry: Uh. Okay. Sounds good to me.

And there you have it. Romantic, isn't it?

At any rate, it's our song. To be fair, even though the means by which it became our song is rather unorthodox, there was a reason I suggested it to him, a reason why I thought it would be a good song for "us." First, I liked the song. I thought it was a particularly lovely melody, and I found the lyrics sweetly vulnerable. Second, it wasn't cheesy. There was an earthiness to it, a real world reality in the emotions expressed, although poetic. Third, whenever I heard it, I would inevitably think of the day Jerry and I met "in person." We had experienced, I guess, some of the song on that day, even though it was never intended for us:

Today, we took a walk up the street, picked a flower, climbed a hill above the lake;
And secret thoughts were said aloud, we watched the faces in the clouds, until the clouds had blown away.
And were we ever somewhere else? You know, it's hard to say...

We walked up the streets in Hot Springs. There's a national forest there, right in the middle of town, and we climbed the hills via the walkways there amidst the pine trees, soaking in the warm spring sunshine. We shared thoughts two people share when they are falling in love, the silly and the serious. And then we sat on a bench and looked at the sky and the clouds, and Jerry told me about them -- not poetically -- but in true, meteorological terms.

He explained, also, why the sky was so blue that day. It had something to do with moisture in the air, I think, or the lack thereof. But as we gazed upward, he said something like, "That's why the sky is so blue."

... and I never saw blue like that before -- across the sky, around the world. You're giving me all you have and more. And no one else has ever shown me how to see the world the way I see it now. Oh, I never saw blue like that.

The song goes on to express the surprise of unexpected love, and I had thought many times, when listening to the song, of how that also paralleled our story. So it was perfect to choose that song for "us," and -- in the romantic sense -- it will always be our song.

But as I listen to the lyrics now, I hear more. I still hear, and more poignantly as our life together grows, the sweet love story in the song, the hopeful expectation. But I also hear now something that reminds me of our life as parents -- not just the story of "us" as a couple but "us" as a family, with a daughter. I don't mean, in any way, to negate the uniqueness of the romance in the song or to compromise the meaning it has to me in regard to Jerry alone. But there is something in the words that undeniably speaks to me also of our daughter:

I can't believe a month ago I was alone, I didn't know you, I hadn't seen you or heard your name.
And even now, I'm so amazed, it's like a dream, it's like a rainbow -- it's like the rain.
And some things are the way they are, and words just can't explain...

We sat there in the living room, and we held this little baby. She was so surprising -- we hadn't known her five days before, hadn't even known of her five days before! So amazing, such a dream... so full of color, of joy. It's just the way it was meant to be, and words couldn't express why or how or what it meant to us. And those eyes, those beautiful blue eyes of hers. So blue...

... and I never saw blue like that before -- across the sky, around the world. You're giving me all you have and more. And no one else has ever shown me how to see the world the way I see it now. Oh, I never saw blue like that.

Jerry is my love in a way that no one else ever can or will be. This is "our song."

But Lilia is a product of our love, not biologically, but in this way: Our love sought her out and our love took her in. And who she becomes will be the result of, in large part, how Jerry and I love each other. She is, in a sense, "our love."

It's true that I get extra sentimental when Jerry is away (he's in New Orleans this week) because I miss him terribly. The empty space in bed beside me, the lack of green-bean-length toes playing "footsy" with me as we read on the couch together... well, you know. It's just so alone without him.

But there's this little Peanut toddling around, with eyes as blue as a sapphire sky, and every time she says "mommy" and "daddy" my heart melts into oblivion. It strikes me how the present, the now, is such a gift. I want it to be this way always: Me and my love and the home we have made.

...and it feels like now, and it feels always, and it feels like coming home.
You're giving me all you have and more, Jerry. No one else has shown me how to see the world the way I've learned to see it from you. And you Lilia, with your little Peanut ways, always showing me life through your eyes. My dear ones.

I never saw blue like that.